Christmas is only one day away, and every single draft-loving, player-evaluating, football analyzing junkie will unlikely sleep much during the final hours leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft. Despite the hundreds of mock drafts and thousands of “insider” reports, nobody knows exactly how the Draft will play out; not even the general managers of the 32 franchises participating in it. The uncertainty and “anything can happen” notion feels especially true with this 2018 draft class.
The following mock draft is based purely on what I expect to happen as opposed to what I would do if I were in each team’s position.
1. Sam Darnold, QB – USC
General manager John Dorsey takes Darnold to be the savior of the Browns franchise. Hue Jackson will continue to say Tyrod Taylor is the starter in 2018 but will bench him just six weeks into the season. Typical Hue.
2. Saquon Barkley, RB – Penn State
Despite Eli Manning only being a few years away from obtaining his AARP card, newly appointed general manager Dave Gettleman goes against his philosophy and takes the best player in the entire draft class and in doing so, takes some pressure off of Manning’s noodle arm
3. Baker Mayfield, QB – Oklahoma
Mayfield’s big personality and skill set get to be showcased under New York’s bright lights. He will not sit behind Josh McCown for very long. In five years, this selection will be highlighted as one of the better first round picks.
Bills receive pick 4 from Browns
Browns receive picks 12, 22, 53, and a 2019 2nd
4. Josh Rosen, QB – UCLA
Bills (via Browns)
With Josh Allen still on the board, a bit of a shocker takes place and Rosen does not slip as predicted. Rosen will finally give Buffalo its long-awaited stability at the quarterback position.
5. Denzel Ward, CB – Ohio State
With many options here, John Elway does not find a trade partner and simply takes the best available player. Aqib Talib is gone, so Ward’s athletic profile is a fine replacement in the Broncos secondary.
6. Bradley Chubb, DE – N.C. State
After moving down from number three, Chris Ballard gets his elite pass rusher to anchor the defensive line. Chubb is a more athletic and polished Derek Barnett, which will sit well with Colts fans.
7. Derwin James, S – Florida State
This is becoming a chalk selection, but James is a talented player who will fit well in Tampa’s secondary. A comfortable player both inside the box and roaming center field, James is a great pick at number seven.
8. Quenton Nelson, G – Notre Dame
In this perfect scenario for new head coach Matt Nagy, quite possibly the best player in the class becomes a Chicago Bear due to the deep Guard class this year. It will not shock me if Nelson is an All-Pro selection next season. He is that good.
Chargers receive pick 9
49ers receive picks 17, 84, and a 2019 1st
9. Lamar Jackson, QB – Louisville
Chargers (via 49ers)
In a shocking trade, the Chargers draft the heir apparent to Philip Rivers. Being drafted by the Chargers allows Jackson to sit for a year or two and perfect his mechanics before he’s expected to take charge in 2019 or 2020.
10. Roquan Smith, LB – Georgia
Roquan to the Raiders has to happen now. If it does not, Raiders Nation will likely revolt. A top-five talent for me in this class, Smith will immediately contribute and be a Patrick Willis-like figure for that defense.
11. Vita Vea, DT – Washington
After losing Ndomakung Suh, Vea will step in and anchor the defensive line and help stop the opposing running games. Both a short-term and long-term selection here at 11, despite the quarterback chatter coming from Miami.
12. Mike McGlinchey, T – Notre Dame
Browns (via Bills)
With the retirement of Joe Thomas, McGlinchey will step in and be an adequate replacement for a rebuilding Browns team.
13. Tremaine Edmunds, LB – Virginia Tech
A young, athletic, and very projectable Edmunds gives the Redskins a fun piece of clay to mold as they wish multiple seasons ahead.
14. Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB – Alabama
Because he does not have a true position, Fitzpatrick falls to Green Bay whose secondary is bad all around. A natural fit for both player and team.
15. Josh Allen, QB – Wyoming
After an unexpected, yet understandable slide, Allen finds a home where he can sit behind newly signed Sam Bradford and learn the ins and outs of NFL quarterbacking. That, or until Bradford’s knees give out…again.
16. Isaiah Wynn, OL – Georgia
There are a few different directions the Ravens could go here, but the offensive line is arguably the most important aspect of a team. With Wynn’s ability to play both Guard and Tackle, he and his athleticism fit nicely.
17. Courtland Sutton, WR – SMU
49ers (via Chargers)
After moving down, dynamic duo John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan get their go-to receiver in Sutton, who makes fantasy owners rejoice after landing in the perfect situation.
18. Connor Williams, T – Texas
Seattle needs offensive line help for days, months, and years. To keep Russell Wilson alive, an offensive line pick in any shape or form needs to happen.
19. Harold Landry, EDGE – Boston College
After a season with injuries and unfilled expectations, Landry’s stock fell to the second round, but his talent cannot be overlooked any longer. With elite bend and athleticism, Landry’s knack for getting to the quarterback will show well in Dallas.
20. Sam Hubbard, EDGE – Ohio State
Matt Patricia considers a particular LSU running back but decides edge rusher is a more pressing need. Hubbard is already somewhat of an undervalued asset and will prove to be an excellent pick looking back three years from now.
21. Brian O’Neill, T – Pittsburgh
There is always a head-turning reach in the first round, and Cincinnati might be the team to do it this year because of their need for an offensive lineman. O’Neill is a solid tackle prospect and offers a high floor but limited ceiling. This would not kill the Bengals.
22. Jaire Alexander, CB – Louisville
Browns (via Bills)
My favorite cornerback prospect in the class lands in Cleveland. The Browns secondary needs help, and Alexander offers a fun upside with an excellent base of mechanics already in place. He might fall due to the depth at his position, but it would not shock me if he lands somewhere in the mid-to-late first round.
23. Isaiah Oliver, CB – Colorado
Despite the chatter of Belichick making a move for the quarterback of their future, he sits in place and takes a player to sure-up the secondary, a position that’s definitely to blame in their Super Bowl loss to Nick Foles’ elite, hall-of-fame arm. I kid, I kid but corner is a need, and Bill takes his favorite.
24. D.J. Moore, WR – Maryland
After an outstanding Combine, Moore finds himself as the complement to Devin Funchess. This will finally provide Cam Newton with another option in the passing game.
25. Leighton Vander Esch, ILB – Boise State
With the departure of Avery Williamson, new head coach Mike Vrabel drafts a player from his old position. LVE offers an intriguing skill *set and finds himself in an excellent fit with the Titans.
26. Calvin Ridley, WR – Alabama
Though Mohamed Sanu is a quality tool to have, Matt Ryan still lacks a true number two receiver. Ridley is an excellent complement to fellow ‘Bama alumni Julio Jones. Fantasy owners unite as Ridley’s size can be brushed off, and the receptions begin to roll in.
27. James Daniels, G/C – Iowa
New Orleans needs a body on the offensive line to provide stability and Daniels’ mobility solidifies the line. This will not be a sexy pick unless they make a massive move for Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson, but one that will help the offense as a whole in 2018.
28. Rashaan Evans, ILB – Alabama
No one is sure if Ryan Shazier will play again, so Evans is a great replacement as well as depth pick. If Shazier returns in 2019, these two will play well off of each other in hopes of showing flashes of the old steel curtain defenses.
Buccaneers receive pick 29
Jaguars receive picks 38, 102, and a 2019 2nd
29. Derrius Guice, RB – LSU
Buccaneers (via Jaguars)
After the “character concerns” drop Guice and his elite talent, Tampa Bay jumps back into the first round and makes the offense officially *deadly. Guice will provide the violent running style and give Jameis Winston a chance to throw the ball against lighter coverages.
30. Billy Price, OL – Ohio State
Offensive line is one of the only needs for the Vikings. Price reunites with former teammate Pat Elfein and gives Kirk Cousins a more stable line to throw behind. They enter the 2018 season as potential favorites to win it all.
31. Darius Leonard, LB – South Carolina State
Shocking some people and jumping into the first round, Leonard is an athletic player who can do many things across the field; a typical Bill Belichick pick. He can cover well and can get to the quarterback when he needs to. He will fit well within the Patriots defense.
32. Lorenzo Carter, OLB – Georgia
I do not believe Sony Michel will find himself in Philly unless he slips to the 4th round (not going to happen). The Eagles are another team with few holes and Carter provides some needed depth at linebacker with his athletic profile and projectable skill set. This pick could also be where a quarterback-needy team drafting in the early-to-mid 2nd round could jump up and select Mason Rudolph. I’m talking to you, Dolphins and Patriots.