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NFL mock draft: Bold predictions heading into Week 15

Jesse Reed
Josh Rosen

Teams are already starting to do their leg work, and with college football heading into bowl season there’s no better time to do an NFL mock draft.

The order isn’t set in stone — this is just how things look heading into NFL Week 15. But for the most part we have a good idea about the teams that will have the top picks, and what they need to do with them.

If the season ended today, this 2018 NFL mock draft gives us an idea about what could happen when the actual thing takes place next year.

Note: Some of these players have yet to declare. 

1. Cleveland Browns (0-13): Josh Rosen, quarterback, UCLA

The most naturally gifted pure passer coming into the NFL next year, Rosen is a lock to go very high if he chooses to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. He doesn’t get rattled — he’s been unreal delivering strikes under pressure the past few years playing behind a porous offensive line — and would immediately be the starter in Cleveland. He’s the perfect quarterback for Hue Jackson to mold into a star.

2. New York Giants (2-11): Sam Darnold, quarterback, USC

Darnold can be maddening. Sometimes he looks like he has no clue what he’s doing. Other times, he pulls off miracles under duress. But there’s no doubt he has franchise quarterback potential. He can make all the throws, has that extra something all great quarterbacks posses — a certain X-factor nobody can quite define — and delivers pin-point strikes when his feet are set. The Giants could do a lot worse moving into the post-Eli Manning era.

3. San Francisco 49ers (3-10): Bradley Chubb, EDGE, South Carolina

Bradley Chubb

The 49ers have so much young talent up front, but they had a good reason for signing veteran Elvis Dumervil this year. Edge pressure is still an area of weakness, which impacts the entire defense. Chubb is so darn disruptive and has the ability to bend around corners like nobody else coming into next year’s draft. He’s a star in the making, is very tough and has the nasty attitude you want from a star pass rusher.

4. Indianapolis Colts (3-10): Derwin James, safety, Florida State

Will Chubb off the board the Colts should hone in on James. He’s the perfect complement to Malik Hooker, whom the team drafted in the first round this past year. With Hooker covering the deep middle, James would be free to roam underneath. He’s a devastating tackler who can separate ball-carrier from ball. He also possesses both the size and elite athleticism to match up with tight ends in single coverage.

5. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans): Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive back, Alabama

There isn’t a more instinctive, more complete defensive back in next year’s draft than Fitzpatrick. He could play on the corner. He can play the slot. He could roll to the back end to be a free safety. He’s a very athletic player who has come up with nine interceptions and four touchdowns the past few years — once he has the ball he knows what to do with it (like this). He’s just an incredible weapon that would be perfect for Gregg Williams’ attacking scheme.

6. Denver Broncos (4-9): Orlando Brown, offensive tackle, Oklahoma

It’s no secret the Broncos have struggled to protect the quarterback and run the ball the past couple of years. The team’s offensive line has just not held up. Rookie Garrett Bolles has shown a nasty streak but has also been very inconsistent. Drafting Brown to take over on the left side and sliding Bolles over to the right side would go a long way toward solidifying the entire line.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9): Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley against Iowa in college football Week 4

Tampa Bay’s running game has been embarrassingly bad this year, averaging 3.7 yards per rush and 91.5 yards per game with a total of six scores. Barkley is the most electric running back in the draft. He brings insane agility, speed and quickness to the table, not to mention ideal size (5-foot-11, 230 pounds) to the position. His ability to take any play to the house (like this) would instantly open things up for the rest of the ailing Buccaneers’ offense.

8. Chicago Bears (4-9): Quenton Nelson, guard, Notre Dame

Whether John Fox is in Chicago, the Bears should still be a run-first team in 2018. With Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen at your disposal, you’d be crazy not to feature them. Unfortunately, Chicago has had issues staying healthy up front with Kyle Long seemingly always dealing with an injury. Nelson is one of the sure things of this year’s draft. He’s a road-grader up front who has been a key to Notre Dame’s rushing attack and is adept at pass blocking, too.

9. Cincinnati Bengals (5-8): Lamar Jackson, quarterback, Louisville

The Marvin Lewis/Andy Dalton era in Cincinnati has to be over. It just has to. The duo hasn’t done anything of consequence. Ever. It’s time for new blood. And there’s no better way to change the team’s outlook that bringing in a playmaker like Lamar Jackson. He’s not a running quarterback. He’s an amazing passer who can also run, better than many running backs. Team him up with Joe Mixon, A.J. Green and, yes, John Ross, and you’ll have something special.

10. New York Jets (5-8): Roquan Smith, linebacker, Georgia

Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith is one of the best college football players in the nation

Darron Lee has started to play like the Jets hoped he would when they drafted him No. 20 overall two years ago. Demario Davis will be a free agent after this season, however, and the Jets have been consciously getting younger. Adding Smith, who’s the best linebacker in the nation, to play alongside Lee, would give New York one of the best linebacking duos in the NFL.

11. Washington Redskins (5-8): Maurice Hurst, defensive tackle, Michigan

Washington has been beset by injuries to both its offensive and defensive line. But even before those injuries, the team’s defensive front was needing an upgrade. Adding Jonathan Allen was a step in the right direction. Adding Hurst to play with him up front would give the Redskins an amazing 1-2 punch on the interior of their defense. He’s the best all-around defensive tackle of the draft and would be an immediate starter.

12. Oakland Raiders (6-7): Joshua Jackson, cornerback, Iowa

The Oakland Raiders invested two early picks on defensive backs this past April but still feature one of the NFL’s weakest pass defenses. Clearly, upgrades are still needed. Joshua Jackson is a tremendous cornerback who not only has the technical skill to lock down receivers but also the instincts and athleticism to make big plays on the ball. His seven interceptions this year prove that in a big way.

13. Arizona Cardinals (6-7): Baker Mayfield, quarterback, Oklahoma

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield in college football Week 2

Carson Palmer is toast, folks. He might come back and play in 2018, but for all intents and purposes he’s done. And there isn’t another quarterback in this draft that would fit Bruce Arians’ offense and mindset like Mayfield. He is short, sure. But he’s also clutch, throws darts all over the field and doesn’t get fazed by pressure. He’s tough as nails and isn’t afraid to challenge defenses. This is a no-brainer.

14. Miami Dolphins (6-7): Connor Williams, offensive tackle, Texas

Laremy Tunsil has done okay for the Dolphins manning the left side, but they could still use an upgrade there. Before getting injured, Williams was seen as a potential top-10 pick or better. He’s a mountain of a man who moves with rare agility on the edge. He’s dominant in the run game and a powerful, mobile edge blocker. He’s just what Miami needs to protect Ryan Tannehill in 2018 and beyond.

15. Dallas Cowboys (7-6): James Washington, wide receiver, Oklahoma State

Dez Bryant has his moments, but his prime years appear to be in the rear-view mirror. Also, aside from the occasional huge game from Terrance Williams, Dallas just doesn’t have any other explosive playmakers in the passing game. There is no receiver who fits that bill more than Washington. He averaged 20.6 yards per reception this past year to lead college football and has the ability to take any pass the distance for six points.

16. Los Angeles Chargers (7-6): Kolton Miller, offensive tackle, UCLA

The Chargers have a decent left tackle in Russell Okung, but they need to be grooming his replacement. On the other side, Joe Barksdale isn’t great. He consistently gets overpowered by top edge rushers. Los Angeles would do well to look right in its own backyard at Miller, who’s been a bright spot on UCLA’s offensive line. A huge man (6-foot-8, 310 pounds), he moves extremely well. Miller is still developing and needs to polish his game, but he has eye-popping potential.

17. Green Bay Packers (7-6): Denzel Ward, cornerback, Ohio State

Denzel Ward

The Packers have a very impressive young cornerback in Damarious Randall and a rookie in Kevin King who has potential. But let’s be honest, this defense is still in desperate need of talent on the back end. Ohio State has produced some terrific corners in recent years, and Ward is another who should step into the NFL and make a very positive, immediate impact. He’s a very tough, athletic cornerback who earned the respect of opposing quarterbacks that learned to hate throwing his way, not to mention All-American honors.

18. Detroit Lions (7-6): Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE, Oklahoma

One of the weakest links in Detroit’s defense is the lack of players who can consistently pressure opposing quarterbacks. The Lions have just 26 sacks this year, which is good for 22nd in the league. Okoronkwo is a very strong edge rusher who also already has the ability to set the edge on running plays — a skill that often takes young pass rushers years to perfect. The past two years he’s racked up 17 sacks and 29 tackles for a loss. His small stature might have teams thinking he’s better suited for a 3-4 defense but his raw strength tells us he can play on the edge in any scheme.

19. Buffalo Bills (7-6): Mason Rudolph, quarterback, Oklahoma State

It’s crystal clear the Bills don’t have faith in Tyrod Taylor beyond this year. Playing half the season in Western New York, whoever does quarterback for this team needs to have the ability to drive the ball through the elements, and Rudolph can certainly do that. He is also a prolific passer who already knows how to distribute the ball to multiple receivers and sees the field well. He makes every throw in the book look effortless and would be an immediate starter for the (still) rebuilding Bills.

20. Seattle Seahawks (8-5): Jamarco Jones, offensive tackle, Ohio State

Like UCLA’s Kolton Miller, Jones is a first-round talent more for what he will do, rather than what he is doing right now. Blessed with a tremendous frame (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) and outstanding athleticism, he still struggles with technique at times. The Seahawks are known for picking offensive linemen who have potential, rather than technique, however, and will love the raw talent this Ohio State product brings to the table.

21. Baltimore Ravens (7-6): Derrius Guice, running back, LSU

LSU running back Derrius Guice

Alex Collins has been darn impressive in his second year out of Arkansas. But let’s be honest, he’s no Derrius Guice. Also, teams are increasingly relying on a tandem at the running back position. And Baltimore would be a force offensively with both these young running backs pounding the rock. Guice is an elite prospect who has come on strong the second half of the season. He is powerfully built and has the breakaway speed to hit those home runs that change the outcome of games.

22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs): Courtland Sutton, wide receiver, SMU

Having landed the quarterback of the future in our NFL mock draft, the Bills should be eager to provide Rudolph with a No. 1 receiver. They currently have some decent talent but nobody that can dominate on the outside. Sutton fits that bill. He has prototypical size at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, and is very skilled at nabbing 50-50 balls at their high point deep down the field. This year Sutton hauled in 62 catches for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns, bringing his career total at SMU to 189 catches for 3,152 yards and 31 touchdowns.

23. Tennessee Titans (8-5): Vita Vea, defensive tackle, Washington

Tennessee has built a bully by focusing on the offensive and defensive lines, both in the draft and free agency. It already has a very stout defensive front. But no team ever got worse by adding strength to strength. And when we’re talking about Vea, strength is the thing that jumps off the screen watching him play. This guy literally puts offensive linemen on their butts. He comes off the ball so quickly and has tremendous power. He’s an asset in both the running game and as an interior pass rusher. A very impressive player.

24. Atlanta Falcons (8-5): Christian Wilkins, defensive tackle, Clemson

Whether Dontari Poe signs a long-term deal or leaves via free agency, the Falcons would love to have Wilkins playing next to Grady Jarrett for the foreseeable future. A productive interior lineman for Clemson the past three years running, the junior is very disruptive both against the run and pass. He racked up 52 tackles, nine for a loss and five sacks this past season for the Tigers and is a big reason why they’re competing for the national title again.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-4): Malik Jefferson, linebacker, Texas

Malik Jefferson

We talked about adding strength to strength already a bit earlier. Jacksonville has the NFL’s best defense yet could still add talent to its linebacking corps to get even better. Jefferson has sideline-to-sideline speed and would be an amazing addition playing alongside Telvin Smith and Myles Jack in the years to come. His instincts sometimes betray him, but Jackson’s athleticism and abilities as a blitzer make up for that deficiency.

26. Carolina Panthers (9-4): Arden Key, EDGE, LSU

The 2017 season wasn’t the final year of glory Key would have wished to end his career on at LSU. He had a shoulder injury that required surgery and kept him out of the first half of the season. Then he struggled to get into form. But once he got there, he looked like his old, dominant self on the edge. The Panthers have gotten excellent production out of veteran Julius Peppers, but his time is winding down in the NFL. It would be smart to draft his replacement next April.

27. New Orleans Saints (9-4): Harold Landry, defensive end, Boston College

The Saints have been looking for someone who can match Cameron Jordan’s effort and skill on the edge for years. They’ve struck out time and time again. But adding Landry to their defensive roster would be a home run. He could have come out last year after his junior season but chose to stay in school. Unfortunately, his final year at Boston College didn’t go according to plan, as an ankle injury hampered him. Still, his ability to create pressure off the edge is something that will get him drafted early.

28. Los Angeles Rams (9-4): Mark Andrews, tight end, Oklahoma

The Rams already have some impressive weapons for young gunslinger Jared Goff. But they could still upgrade the tight end position, with Tyler Higbee remaining somewhat of a project who struggles with consistency. Adding Baker Mayfield’s favorite weapon would give this already potent offense some serious clout. Andrews has the size (6-foot-5, 254 pounds) to dominate inside linebackers and safeties in the middle of the field, not to mention the speed and athleticism to make big plays deep.

29. Minnesota Vikings (10-3): Anthony Miller, wide receiver, Memphis

Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen represent one of the best receiving duos in the NFL. But the Vikings could do a lot worse than to add another elite playmaker. Miller is a smaller receiver who plays a lot bigger than his size. All he’s done the past two years is catch 185 passes for 2,841 yards and 31 touchdowns. Whoever’s throwing the ball next year for Minnesota would be ecstatic to have this young man join an already elite receiving corps.

30. New England Patriots (10-3): Taven Bryan, defensive lineman, Florida

One of the biggest areas of weakness that’s plagued New England this year is a lack of depth and talent up front defensively. Bryan is a big player, at 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds, who can play all over the line. He isn’t particularly explosive off the ball but has strength at the point of attack and knows how to use his hands. He’s the perfect type of defensive lineman to thrive in Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme.

31. Philadelphia Eagles (11-2): Chukwuma Okorafor, offensive tackle, Western Michigan

Because he played at Western Michigan, Okorafor hasn’t gotten a ton of hype…so far. But those who watch college ball for a living know his worth. He earned first-team All-American honors for his work this season with the Broncos. A monster of a man, at 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, he is a force in the running game and athletic enough to handle both speed and power on the edge. The Eagles need to upgrade their depth and talent at the offensive tackle position. So this just makes too much sense.

32. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-2): Isaiah Oliver, cornerback, Colorado

It says something that the Steelers signed Joe Haden this year. They really do have a need at the all-important cornerback position, which we saw in full effect against the Ravens on Sunday night. Oliver is a very talented prospect with length, instincts and a knack for getting his hands on balls thrown his way. He deflected 12 passes this year and picked off two, proving to be one of the best pure cover corners in the nation.