The final four teams are preparing for their championship push while the rest of the league looks ahead to next season. It’s the perfect time to dive into another 2018 NFL mock draft, our second of the season.We might have gotten a bit overzealous here, but somehow six quarterbacks made their way into the first round of this upcoming mock. Given the sad state of affairs around the league for many teams needing franchise passers, however, we might not be too far off the mark.
Here’s a look at what could go down this upcoming April when the commish starts calling young me to the podium.
1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen, quarterback, UCLA
No team needs a quarterback as desperately as the Browns do, no offense intended to DeShone Kizer. The Browns have already made it clear their top priority is to land a franchise passer, so we assume they’ll finally actually use their top pick to get the guy they want the most. Some have said Cleveland is enamored with Josh Allen, but I find it hard to fathom he’ll actually go No. 1. Instead, I expect the Browns to go with the most naturally gifted pure passer in the draft.
2. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC
In a sense, the Giants would get the best of both worlds here. Many (myself included) think Darnold should have stayed in school another year to hone his skills. He’s still very raw and prone to making foolish mistakes. In New York, he won’t have to play right away and would be blessed with learning under a pro’s pro in Eli Manning for at least a year. That Darnold has special tools is undeniable. He’d be in a fantastic spot here.
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, defensive end, NC State
Only one team in the NFL had less sacks in 2017 than the Colts did (25 total). This has been a problem in Indianapolis for some years now, and it’s one of the many issues general manager Chris Ballard needs to address. Chubb is the elite edge rusher in this upcoming draft. There are plenty of talented guys coming into the league, but nobody matches up to this young man in terms of instant impact, which is crazy considering he has an insanely high ceiling.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston): Minkah Fitzpatrick, safety, Alabama
This just makes too much sense. The Browns have serious needs all over the place, but they would be foolish to let a defensive back of Fitzpatrick’s caliber fall down the board. He’s a top-five player in this year’s draft and can play multiple positions on the back end. Not only is he a freak athlete, but Fitzpatrick is smart and has excellent instincts. He’s always around the ball and would provide Cleveland’s defense with an instant upgrade.
5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma
Whereas some NFL people might find Mayfield’s brash demeanor and tendency to bark a bit unsettling, we’re betting John Elway loves it. He knows it takes a certain level of alpha dog to lead a group of men, and Mayfield has that going for him in a big way. He’s also an incredibly accurate passer, which is a huge deal at the NFL level. The Broncos have already made their interest in this young man plain as day, so it won’t be surprising at all if he ends up in Denver next year.
6. New York Jets: Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State
The Jets need a quarterback. We all know this. But they’ll be loathe to reach for one here, especially if the three we’ve mocked at the top are off the board at this point. Instead, they’d be smart to bring in another playmaker to add to their burgeoning group. Barkley is probably the best overall player coming into this year’s draft. He’s an incredible talent who can take any play to the house for six points — running, catching or returning kicks. He’s the kind of centerpiece you can build around.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Connor Williams, offensive tackle, Texas
Given the fact that Dirk Koetter has been retained it’s clear the Bucs are desperate for him to turn Jameis Winston into an elite player. He has elite talent but really took some steps back this past year. Some of that had to do with the team’s inability to protect the young quarterback. Bringing in Williams to solidify the left side of the line would do wonders for Winston’s development, not to mention the team’s sad run game.
8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, offensive guard, Notre Dame
With Matt Nagy hired on as the next coach, it’s clear the Bears are focusing on bettering their offense in the coming years. They also were lucky enough to retain Vic Fangio, and that makes Nagy’s job so much easier. Chicago has a couple of outstanding running backs in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, who’ll benefit in a big way from Nagy’s influence. Add in a road grader like Nelson and you’re looking at an offense that can grind any defense into the dust.
9. Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward, cornerback, Ohio State
Oakland’s defense was a sad thing to behold, not only this past year but the past couple of years. The Raiders used two top picks to draft defensive backs last year, but neither Obi Melifonwu nor Gareon Conley did much of anything positive in their first seasons. Even if they do emerge, the Raiders still need more help. Adding Ward, who is an elite outside corner with long arms and an aggressive streak, would be a smart move.
10. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, linebacker, Georgia
This might be nothing more than a dream. But what a dream it would be. The 49ers already have one of the NFL’s most promising young inside linebackers in Reuben Foster (recent arrest notwithstanding). And sure, they also have Malcolm Smith, who signed a big contract last year in free agency. But adding Smith to play alongside Foster would instantly give the 49ers the best young 1-2 punch at this position in the entire NFL. Playing behind a very talented young defensive front, they would eat opposing running backs alive.
11. Miami Dolphins: Orlando Brown, offensive tackle, Oklahoma
Ryan Tannehill. He’s already been through too much. He deserves some real protection, Miami. So isn’t it about time you gave it to him? Orlando Brown is a huge man (6-foot-8, 360 pounds). He could play on either side of the line at tackle. So if the Dolphins think Laremy Tunsil can man the left side, throwing Brown on the right side is just fine. In fact, it would only serve to make the run game that much more dangerous, which is another way the Dolphins can protect their quarterback.
12. Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Jackson, cornerback, Iowa
Adam Jones is no spring chicken, and the Bengals could save nearly $6 million by cutting him. Regardless, Cincinnati is going to have to face the fact that his best days will soon be behind him. Jackson is coming off an exceptional final season at Iowa. He’s a ball hawk who loves to play physical at the line of scrimmage and would be a perfect fit playing opposite Dre Kirkpatrick in the years to come.
13. Washington Redskins: Rashaad Evans, linebacker, Alabama
Zach Brown was outstanding this year until he got hurt. But he’ll be a free agent and could cost more than Washington is willing to pay. Even if he stays, the team needs another solid inside linebacker to shore up what was a very disappointing front seven this past year. Adding Evans, who combines size, speed, athleticism and instincts, would be a tremendous move, and it would reunite him with Jonathan Allen, his old Alabama teammate.
14. Green Bay Packers: Derrius Guice, running back, LSU
There’s a new sheriff in town. The Packers finally moved on from the Ted Thompson era and promoted Brian Gutekunst, who has vowed to be aggressive about filling the talent voids on this roster. While he was specifically addressing free agency, we assume this will also apply to the draft. And while Green Bay’s defense needs some serious attention, the offense can definitely use an upgrade at the running back position. Guice would be an outstanding addition to give Aaron Rodgers the balance he so desperately needs.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen, quarterback, Wyoming
Carson Palmer has retired. The only quarterbacks on Arizona’s roster are Blaine Gabbert, Drew Stanton and Matt Barkley. Something’s gotta give. We suspect the Cardinals will sign or trade for a veteran and use the draft to find a long-term answer. In this scenario, Allen makes perfect sense. He has the traits you look for in a franchise passer but likely needs a season or two to learn the NFL game.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, wide receiver, Alabama
There is no doubt the Ravens needs to hit the upgrade button when it comes to the wide receiver position. And though you’d never know it looking at his college stats, Ridley has WR1 written all over him. His ability to gain separation, both off the line and as he moves in and out of his breaks, makes him a perfect fit for Baltimore’s offense. Heck, for any offense, really. He has the speed to go deep, but even more valuable is his ability to take short passes a long way due to his abilities in the open field.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James, safety, Florida State
The Chargers are building a monster defensively. Up front they have some impressive pieces, and their secondary is shaping up nicely, too. The one thing they could use, however, is an enforcer in the middle of the field. James is a that guy. He can play up at the line of scrimmage but also has the speed and athleticism to make a difference on the back end. Sure, Tre Boston and Jahleel Addae were solid, but there’s room for improvement.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Mike McGlinchey, offensive tackle, Notre Dame
Perhaps no team needs more help up front on the offensive line than the Seattle Seahawks. While McGlinchey doesn’t get the same type of hype teammate Quenton Nelson gets, he’s one of the best offensive tackles in the upcoming draft. Technically sound with quick feet, he is proficient both protecting the passer and paving lanes in the run game. He’d be an instant upgrade on the right side and could eventually take over for Duane Brown on the left side.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Courtland Sutton, wide receiver, SMU
In our previous mock, I had James Washington as the pick here. That might still be a great fit, but the more I watch of Sutton, the more I think he’s a better overall player for what Dallas needs on offense. Dez Bryant clearly isn’t the same player he once was, and Dak Prescott needs another big-bodied, legitimate No. 1-type receiver. Sutton is a freak of nature who has that prototypical frame scouts drool over. He also caught 31 touchdowns the past three seasons, putting him in rare air there.
20. Detroit Lions: Marcus Davenport, defensive end, UTSA
A fast riser on big boards all over the place, this University of Texas-San Antonio product has the look of a nightmare off the edge. Davenport has the size and length teams covet (6-foot-7 and 255 pounds), and better yet he uses it extremely well. Using a quick first step off the line, Davenport combines speed and power to get to the quarterback with regularity. Detroit will have some decisions to make in free agency, as Ezekiel Ansah and other front-seven players are coming up on free agency. Regardless of what happens there, Davenport is a player the Lions should consider here.
21. Buffalo Bills: Mason Rudolph, quarterback, Oklahoma State
Personally, if this scribe were in charge, I’d take Lamar Jackson over Rudolph. However, given the fact that Buffalo is already tiring of a mobile quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, it stands to reason this team is looking for a more traditional pocket passer going forward. Rudolph has the size, big arm and enough athleticism to do everything required of an NFL quarterback. It’s going to be interesting to see how NFL teams value him when the picks start flying off the board.
22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City): Vita Vea, defensive tackle, Washington
Kyle Williams is considering retirement, and the Bills have some big decisions coming up, including whether to re-sign Lorenzo Alexander, among others. The defensive line is going to look a lot different, regardless. As a start to rebuilding this unit, general manager Brandon Beane could do a lot worse than adding the indomitable Vita Vea to his roster. This young man is a violent player who explodes with power and quickness off the line and projects to be a nightmare inside at the NFL level.
23. Los Angeles Rams: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, defensive end, Oklahoma
Connor Barwin is going to turn 32 next season and will be a free agent this spring. It’s likely the Rams will look to get younger at outside linebacker. Adding the explosive talents of Okoronkwo to play opposite Robert Quinn would give Wade Phillips a tremendous duo on the edge of his 3-4 defense. Though he’s a bit shorter than your prototypical 3-4 outside backer, Okoronkwo has the strength, balance and quickness to excel in a 3-4 scheme.
24. Carolina Panthers: Kolton Miller, offensive tackle, UCLA
Between the regular season and one playoff game, Carolina’s offensive line gave up 39 sacks. Cam Newton was pummeled in the playoff game against New Orleans, and afterward Cameron Jordan called Matt Kalil “Speedbump McGee.” Contract be damned, Carolina has to do better than that. Adding a raw, yet talented player like Miller, who projects as an elite-level left tackle, is critical to ensure Newton can stay healthy in the years to come.
25. Tennessee Titans: James Washington, wide receiver, Oklahoma State
Whether it’s Josh McDaniels or someone else calling the shots in Tennessee, it’s clear the Titans need to continue upgrading their receiving corps. Corey Davis showed some promise in the blowout loss against New England, but Marcus Mariota still needs more help. Adding a playmaker of Washington’s caliber — a true home run threat, both on deep passes and shorter routes he turns into long gains — would be a great step in the right direction.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Mark Andrews, tight end, Oklahoma
The Falcons have missed having a playmaking tight end since the great Tony Gonzalez retired. Not having a go-to option in the red zone killed Atlanta’s offense this past season, and it’s a situation general manager Thomas Dimitroff needs to rectify quickly. Andrews is proficient both as a red-zone target and a dangerous weapon between the 20s. He’d be a tremendous addition to Atlanta’s passing offense.
27. New Orleans Saints: Harold Landry, defensive end, Boston College
We saw this all year. Besides Cameron Jordan, the Saints really struggled to bring consistent pressure on defense. The defense was much better this past year but still needs work heading into 2018. Landry is a relentless worker, much like Jordan, and is an experienced pass rusher who’d slide into the starting lineup immediately as a rookie to provide the necessary help up front.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Da’Ron Payne, defensive tackle, Alabama
This big man boosted his draft stock in a big way late in the season, and especially in the postseason. He combines outstanding size, athleticism and a motor that teams will love. He also clearly is more than just a big body inside. The Steelers already have some outstanding defensive linemen. But the key to staying on top is constantly reloading up front.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville
Yes. We know. Blake Bortles is NOT killing the Jaguars right now. And yes, he’s already locked up for his fifth-year option next year, worth $19 million. That said, is anyone truly convinced the Jaguars are going to win championships with Bortles under center? Jackson is an offensive coordinator’s dream. He is the ultimate playmaker. He’s also a bit raw and would benefit from a year on the bench. If Bortles continues to improve in 2018 and earns a long-term deal, then you have yourself a tremendous trade piece. If he doesn’t, then you have your quarterback of the future.
30. Philadelphia Eagles: Isaiah Oliver, cornerback, Colorado
The biggest area of weakness on Philly’s defense is at cornerback. Thanks to the pressure the front seven provides, the Eagles get away with some deficiencies on the back end. But you add some more talent to that unit and suddenly Philadelphia’s defense moves into that upper echelon. Oliver is an intriguing prospect you might not have seen play much, given the fact he played at Colorado. But his combination of size (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), length, physicality and technique is going to get him drafted in Round 1 this year.
31. New England Patriots: Maurice Hurst, defensive tackle, Michigan
It says something that New England is currently relying on the likes of Ricky Jean-Francois as it pushes toward another Super Bowl trophy. Injuries have been a factor, but the simple truth is this team lacked a lot of depth up front to begin with this season. Hurst isn’t the biggest defensive tackle (6-foot-2, 285 pounds) but uses his size well thanks to a relentless motor and outstanding first step. He’s been around Jim Harbaugh the past few years and is used to the grind that comes with being a Patriot.
32. Minnesota Vikings: Chukwuma Okorafor, offensive tackle, Western Michigan
Okorafor has flown under the radar as an elite draft prospect. He earned first-team All-American honors for his work this season with the Broncos, though, and has top-shelf left tackle written all over him. He is a force in the running game and athletic enough to handle both speed and power on the edge. Offensive line isn’t as much as an issue for Minnesota this upcoming offseason like it was last year, but the Vikings can still use an upgrade here.