Yes, NOW it’s for you to start paying attention to what people are saying and projecting in mock drafts.
Less than three weeks away from the opening night of the 2018 NFL Draft, and with the conclusion of the first wave of free agency plus most college’s “Pro Day” workouts, we’re starting to develop a clearer picture of which teams are interested in which prospects, and what positions teams are targeting in the draft.
So with that in mind, this edition of the mock draft takes actual, real-life information available about what teams are currently thinking in regards to their top draft pick, and connects them to players that they’re reportedly interested in, and/or makes the most sense based on a stated need.
Once again: this mock draft isn’t about what I think teams should do in the draft, because you shouldn’t care about what I personally think teams should do. This mock draft is actually about what I think teams WILL do, just under three weeks from now, with the understanding that several teams will undoubtedly change their mind — and there are likely going to be another trade or two (if not more) that changes the first round draft order — between now and draft day.
That being said, here’s the latest intel for each and everyone of the first 32 picks in the draft….
1. Cleveland — Sam Darnold, QB, USC
I think all the “Cleveland is seriously considering Josh Allen” talk is this year’s version of “Cleveland is seriously interested in Mitchell Trubisky.” Everything still points to Cleveland taking Sam Darnold at #1 overall, and letting him sit for the majority of the season behind Tyrod Taylor.
2. NY Giants — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Two major caveats to this pick: 1) whether the Giants actually keep this pick (it’s a total coin flip right now), and 2) that General Manager Dave Gettleman doesn’t end up taking a lineman with this pick (specifically Bradley Chubb from NC State). If either of those scenarios don’t take place, then it the latest chatter points to this pick being Josh Rosen. The Giants have looked more closely at Rosen than the other QB prospects, and he seems to be the leader in the clubhouse for this pick (at least at this moment).
3. NY Jets (from Indianapolis) — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
According to ace NY Jets beat reporter (and fellow Indian homeboy) Manish Mehta, there’s a great debate going on within the Jets front office, in regards to which QB they should take if Darnold and Rosen are off the board. While there are many who believe the Jets could/would take Baker Mayfield here, when it’s all said and done, there’s a sense that Mike Maccagnan will make the final call to take Allen; he’s the quarterback with the highest potential upside, and — in an underrated plot line — would buy Maccagnan a few more years of job security.
4. Cleveland (from Houston) — Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
If the Browns decide not to trade this pick on draft night, and assuming Chubb is on the board, expect them to grab him here (including one of the beat guys covering the Browns — and I trust local beat reporters over almost everyone else). It’s no secret they’d love to continue to build their group of pass rushers which now includes Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah.
5. Denver — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
After losing out on Kirk Cousins, Denver’s plan was always to sign Case Keenum, and draft a young guy to groom while Keenum held down the fort and picked up a few (much-needed wins). It sounds like Mayfield would be a good fit, in terms of what the Broncos want in a quarterback.
6. Indianapolis (from NY Jets) — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Most people believe that Indianapolis would be choosing between Saquon Barkley and Quenton Nelson here, but there’s reportedly a “mystery player” in the mix here. To me, that player isn’t much of a mystery; it’s Denzel Ward, who would help them fill a huge need at cornerback.
7. Tampa Bay — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
This seems to be where Saquon Barkley would land, even though nearly everyone (present company excluded) has him ranked as the #1 prospect in the class. The fact is, NFL teams are still reluctant to take a running back this early in the draft. However, Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter stated that the team plans to address the running back spot in the draft (after striking out on trying to get one in free agency), and it would be very hard for them — if not unlikely — to pass on Barkley.
8. Chicago — Quenton Nelson, OL, Notre Dame
Since interior OL has been identified as one of the Bears’ “glaring needs,” and given the connection to Nelson via new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand (who coached Nelson at Notre Dame), i’ll stick with this pick from my last mock.
9. San Francisco — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
The 49ers reportedly “love Minkah Fitzpatrick,” and could view him as someone who could be an integral part of the future of their secondary, considering Eric Reid isn’t coming back, and Jaquiski Tart and Jimmie Ward are in the last year of their contracts (h/t to the guys at WalterFootball.com for that info).
10. Oakland — Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Defensive tackle might be the Raiders’ biggest position of need right now, and Vita Vea is among the top prospects on their board at any position. Vita Vea has a very similar skillset and build to Domata Peko, whom new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther coached in Cincinnati.
11. Miami — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Dolphins literally don’t have a SAM (strongside) linebacker on the roster right now. That’s even more of an issue considering how many issues the team has had at the linebacker position in general. While lots of people think Roquan Smith could be the pick here, he would bring a redundant skillset to that of current weakside linebacker Kiko Alonso; Edmunds would be a better fit for their need(s), and has a higher upside.
12. Buffalo (from Cincinnati) — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
In the (increasingly unlikely) scenario the Bills don’t trade up from this pick, Roquan Smith would be a great fit for their needs. Linebacker is a “position to watch” in the NFL Draft for the Bills, and they could move Matt Milano (their 5th round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft) to the inside spot, and play Roquan Smith at the WILL (weakside) spot.
13. Washington — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Redskins boxed themselves into a corner with this pick, after trying to upgrade the defensive line in free agency, but balking at the asking price of the guys they were trying to sign. It’s no secret that the Redskins have an interest in both of this year’s top defensive tackles: Da’Ron Payne and Vita Vea.
14. Green Bay — Derwin James, DB, Florida State
Even though the Packers have HaHa Clinton-Dix and Josh Jones, they’re still seeking more talent upgrades in their secondary. It would be a “home run scenario” for them to draft Derwin James, allowing them to have more versatility in what should be a pass-happy NFC North.
15. Arizona — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Assuming the Cardinals don’t trade up in an attempt to grab one of the “big four” quarterbacks (and assuming they don’t surprise everyone by taking Mason Rudolph or Lamar Jackson with this pick), cornerback might be next on their draft shopping list, which makes Josh Jackson the most logical pick.
16. Baltimore — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
After moving on from last year’s right tackle Austin Howard, that position is now a position which the Ravens could address early on in the draft. Most people believe Mike McGlinchey is the most “ready from day one” tackle in this draft.
17. LA Chargers — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Chargers may look to upgrade either the strongside or middle linebacker spot via the draft, both of which played roles in their running defense that was ranked 27th in rushing defense DVOA last year. Rashaan Evans would fit perfectly as the SAM linebacker in this scheme.
18. Seattle — Marcus Davenport, DE, UT San Antonio
Seattle lost Michael Bennett, and will probably lose Cliff Avril as well, so pass rusher is high on their list of needs/wants. They have a few piecemeal pass rushers in place (Dion Jordan, Marcus Smith, and Barkevious Mingo) where they could bring in Davenport in passing situations only at first, and let him develop.
19. Dallas — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Even after signing Deonte Thompson and Allen Hurns via free agency, it sounds like the Cowboys may not be finished revamping their wide receiver position. If Calvin Ridley falls to them at #19 (and I think there’s a growing possibility that he will), it’s very possible that they select him, especially since it looks increasingly likely that they’ll cut Dez Bryant this summer.
20. Detroit — Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
The interior of Detroit’s defensive line is one of the team’s biggest needs, and Maurice Hurst has been linked to them, given that need. A lot of teams and scouts are very high on him, given his explosive first step and disruptive ability. The only question will be if his medicals check out.
21. Cincinnati (from Buffalo) — James Daniels, OL, Iowa
Cincinnati has what’s been described as a “gaping hole at center,” and it’s a position they could very well address with this pick. James Daniels is almost unanimously the best center prospect in this draft, and would be someone who can step in and play immediately (which is what the Bengals want).
22. Buffalo (from Kansas City) — Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
In the universe where Buffalo doesn’t use this pick to trade up to get one of the top quarterbacks in this class, they could very well use this pick on Lamar Jackson. There are a lot more reasons why Jackson is a fit for the Bills here than most people realize, and they could let him sit and develop behind AJ McCarron in the short-term.
23. New England (from LA Rams) — Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
The Patriots were disappointed to lose Nate Solder to free agency, and have been doing their homework on prospects who could address their newfound glaring hole at left tackle. Kolton Miller is a poor man’s version of Nate Solder, and likely a better fit at the left tackle spot than some of the other tackle prospects in the draft.
24. Carolina — Justin Reid, Safety, Stanford
One of the Panthers’ beat writers has openly predicted that this pick will be Justin Reid, the fast-rising pure free safety prospect from Stanford, so i’ll take his word for it. His explanation — that Reid would be a perfect replacement for departed safety Kurt Coleman — makes sense.
25. Tennessee — Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
The depth chart for the Titans’ edge rushers has been described as a “barren cupboard,” with incumbents Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo basically keeping the seat(s) warm for a future replacement for either of them (or both). In other words, edge rusher could be a big, multi-pick focus for the Titans in the draft. Harold Landry is a perfect fit as a 3-4 edge rusher, and one of the most underrated prospects in this draft.
26. Atlanta — Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
The Falcons are reportedly focused on grabbing interior defensive lineman at some point in the draft, and if one of the top interior defensive linemen (Vita Vea or Da’Ron Payne) falls into the mid-to-late teens, there’s a distinct possibility the Falcons could jump up from this pick to grab one of them. If not, they appear to have a substantial interest in Taven Bryan as well.
27. New Orleans — Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
One of the Saints’ top remaining needs is the edge rusher position, and some of the local bloggers there believe Sam Hubbard is probably on their wish list for this pick. He would fit well in New Orleans’ 4-3 defense.
28. Pittsburgh — Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Pittsburgh’s need to find a replacement for Ryan Shazier is well-documented. Pittsburgh reportedly sent “a large group” of their brass to Boise State’s Pro Day, seemingly to take a close look at Leighton Vander Esch.
29. Jacksonville — Hayden Hurst, TE, South Carolina
Tight end is a position that the Jaguars seem to be one of the positions of focus with this pick (right tackle would be another spot to keep an eye on, though it’s not nearly as pressing a need). Hayden Hurst is one of the players they brought in for a visit, and with his ability to both catch and block, combined with his age, he might be more suited to play immediately, for a team that’s ready to win now.
30. Minnesota — Will Hernandez, OL, UT El Paso
Will Hernandez to the Vikings has become an increasingly popular pick, which either means that there’s something there, or it’s a bunch of groupthink and everyone is copying each other. It’s probably some combination of both; but, it makes sense, considering Minnesota’s current starting right guard is Tom Compton (the journeyman offensive tackle who once played for the Redskins).
31. New England — Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
This is admittedly more of a speculation pick. But, after New England made the deal that shipped out Brandin Cooks, everyone kept saying how they could use one of these two picks on a developmental “heir apparent” quarterback behind Tom Brady. Mason Rudolph could be a good fit, as far as what they want in a quarterback, especially considering he’d have to sit for at least a couple of seasons (if not more) behind the GOAT.
32. Philadelphia — Connor Williams, OT, Texas
I’m pairing the Eagles with the best player available (Connor Williams) at a position of need (offensive tackle). But honestly, if you had to put money on what the Eagles will do with this pick on draft night, the most likely scenario is that the Eagles will end up trading down from this pick.