A new Super Bowl champion has been crowned and the 2017 NFL season is officially history. All 32 franchises now have their sights set on Super Bowl LIII, but all roads to Atlanta first run through the Dallas-Forth Worth Metroplex and the 2018 NFL Draft.
With draft season once again upon us, I am pleased to present my 2018 NFL Mock Draft 1.0. These first-round projections are based on the current draft order and my impression of team needs as of February 7, and do not reflect any potential trade scenarios.
1 | Cleveland Browns — Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Following the worst three-year stretch in NFL history and a total front office upheaval, Cleveland’s never-ending search for QB1 leads them to gamble on the physical prototype of a franchise quarterback in Allen, who also happens to be the biggest potential boom or bust prospect at the position in this draft.
2 | New York Giants — Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Giants are a proud franchise with a rich history—and absolutely zero plans of picking this high in the draft again anytime soon. They make their lost season count by taking the eventual successor to Eli Manning in Darnold.
3 | Indianapolis Colts — Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Between the uncertain future of stud signal caller Andrew Luck and being spurned by handpicked head coach Josh McDaniels, the Colts could use a sure thing here. Chubb is perhaps as close as it gets on defense for a team in desperate need of a pass rusher.
4 | Cleveland Browns — Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
Back on the clock, the Browns turn their attention to defense by taking Fitzpatrick, arguably the best overall defensive prospect in the draft, who would immediately become the ace in their secondary at cornerback or safety—or perhaps, a combination of both.
5 | Denver Broncos — Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The Broncos are back to the drawing board behind center. Fortunately, a top option falls right into their lap. Rosen is a talented, but headstrong player who won’t be a fit everywhere—but he wouldn’t be the first passer with that kind of reputation to make a go of it in Mile High.
6 | New York Jets — Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
Broadway Baker? The Heisman Trophy winner isn’t a physical marvel, but he is athletic, accurate, and an alpha personality—a fiery competitor with big-game experience who could break a vicious cycle of journeymen and developmental duds for the Jets.
7 | Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Running a platoon of backs behind a leaky offensive line this past season, the Buccaneers were near the bottom of the league in rushing. With cap room to burn on starting-caliber blockers and the addition of Barkley, a true feature back and the top skill position player in the entire draft, that could quickly change.
8 | Chicago Bears — Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Bears retooled their secondary in free agency a season ago, but now there isn’t a real starter to be had on the boundary. Ward is the best pure cover cornerback in the draft and can match up with opponents’ top targets, whether they line up on the outside or in the slot.
9 | San Francisco 49ers* — Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Drafting the best overall player in the draft is a no-brainer for a front office that is quickly becoming known for smart personnel moves. Nelson is a powerful, pro-ready mauler the 49ers can plug in on day one to protect Jimmy Garoppolo for years to come.
* (draft position pending result of coin flip with Oakland)
10 | Oakland Raiders* — Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Raiders took a step back in 2017, then took a step back in time, turning to former head coach Jon Gruden to right the ship. With sideline-to-sideline speed and ferocity as a tackler, Smith gives the silver and black the second-level playmaker they’ve been lacking on defense.
* (draft position pending result of coin flip with San Francisco)
11 | Miami Dolphins — Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
With rookie-contract record-setter Jarvis Landry potentially moving on, the Dolphins need a new primary target for whomever ends up as their starting quarterback. Ridley is a smooth operator as a route runner and separator, with the exceptional hands required to keep the chains moving in Miami.
12 | Cincinnati Bengals — Billy Price, OL, Ohio State
Letting reliable starters at guard and tackle walk in free agency last offseason in favor of in-house replacements backfired on the Bengals. Rather than adding yet another offensive tackle prospect that isn’t a lock, Cincinnati opts for an interior lineman that all but is in the rugged center-guard Price.
13 | Washington Redskins — Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Having settled their quarterback situation for the near term, the Redskins should look to address their deficiencies on defense. Coming into the league with the upside of a franchise defender, Edmunds offers the size, speed, strength, and length to play at the line, on the edge, and off the ball.
14 | Green Bay Packers — Sam Hubbard, RSH, Ohio State
The Green Bay defense was exposed when Aaron Rodgers was sidelined by injury. DC Dom Capers and members of his staff have since been sent packing, and personnel changes are sure to follow. One such move could be the addition of a ready-made edge defender—which they would get in the high-motor technician Hubbard.
15 | Arizona Cardinals — Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
The Cardinals are in the quarterback market, although it’s possible Carson Palmer could have staved off retirement had he not spent so much time being scraped off the turf. His successor will have a better chance of staying upright with a polished protector like McGlinchey up front.
16 | Baltimore Ravens — Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
Offense has never been the hallmark of the Ravens, and never more apparent than this past season. While an influx of talent at the skill positions is a must, adding a big, bookend tackle like Brown opposite Ronnie Stanley could also go a long way toward bringing Baltimore back to prominence.
17 | Los Angeles Chargers — Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Chargers nearly made an appearance in the postseason after an abysmal start, thanks in large part to an improved defense masterminded by Gus Bradley. Inserting an elite talent and chess piece like James into his scheme would only help the unit continue to trend upward.
18 | Seattle Seahawks — Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
Seattle remains one of the NFL’s premier franchises, but won’t be for long if they have to continue eschewing their offensive game plan because they can’t run the football and Russell Wilson is running for his life. Drafting a cornerstone lineman in Wynn would be a step in the right direction.
19 | Dallas Cowboys — Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Cowboys were gashed on the ground in five of their seven losses this past season. Instead of rotating a collection of undrafted nose tackles by committee, how about giving Rod Marinelli a people-moving mastodon of a one-technique in Vea to eat up space, collapse the pocket, and shield Sean Lee from blockers?
20 | Detroit Lions — Marcus Davenport, RSH, UTSA
New head coach Matt Patricia inherits a Detroit defense that is likely to lose its top sack artist, and with no real replacement on the roster, pass rusher is a necessity. Davenport is raw as a rare steak, but has ideal measurables, incredible tools to work with, and a wealth of potential.
21 | Buffalo Bills — Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
22 | Buffalo Bills — Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Bills circled the wagons to make a fairy-tale return to the postseason after a lengthy absence, but the whole was far greater than the sum of its parts. With upgrades needed on both sides of the ball, and consecutive first-round picks, they go where the value is at this stage—defense. First, they tackle the front-seven with a disruptive three-technique penetrator in Hurst, then immediately follow last year’s selection of Tre’Davious White with another first-round cornerback in the ball-hawking Jackson.
23 | Los Angeles Rams — Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
The Rams were an unexpected powerhouse in 2017, riding a high-octane offense and a strong defense to the NFC West division title. But, a repeat performance will require a reload in the secondary. Hughes plays tight coverage inside and outside, and his aggressive style would mesh nicely with LA’s attacking front.
24 | Carolina Panthers — Connor Williams, OT, Texas
Offensive line seems to be a constant need for Carolina. Former first-rounder Matt Kalil wasn’t the solution at left tackle the Panthers expected when signing him to a big free agent contract in 2017, so they roll the dice on Williams, hoping he can return to the form of his ultra-promising sophomore campaign.
25 | Tennessee Titans — Harold Landry, RSH, Boston College
Tennessee finished in the top five with 43 total team sacks, but that production could quickly level off with aging rushers on the edges and a lack of capable depth. Hampered by injury, Landry’s production and draft stock dipped as a senior, but he has the tools to terrorize the quarterback when healthy.
26 | Atlanta Falcons — Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
After renting Dontari Poe for a season to anchor the front line of their fast, physical defense, the Falcons could invest in a more long-term solution with the selection of the powerful, athletic Payne, who showed flashes of dominance in the College Football Playoff.
27 | New Orleans Saints — Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Saints made significant strides on defense in 2017 following a string of ugly seasons, but their serviceable linebacker corps doesn’t quite inspire flashbacks of the Dome Patrol. Marching Evans, a big hitter and tone setter, into the Big Easy would help change that tune.
28 | Pittsburgh Steelers — Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
The loss of defensive leader and playmaker Ryan Shazier to a serious spinal injury left a major void in the Pittsburgh defense. Harrison wouldn’t be a direct replacement, but he could shoulder a lion’s share of the sideline-to-sideline load, lining up in the box and as a hybrid linebacker on passing downs.
29 | Jacksonville Jaguars — Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
Jacksonville’s seasons-long rebuild finally paid dividends with a trip to the AFC Championship game. With a loaded defense, they can take their pick of offensive talent. A draft board riser, Hernandez is a big, burly bruiser who can step in immediately to bulldoze defenders for the Jags’ smash-mouth attack.
30 | Minnesota Vikings — James Daniels, OL, Iowa
Likely to return or pursue a veteran free agent, the Vikings are probably content at quarterback, but they’ll need to shore up the interior line to keep the pocket clean. Daniels is a center by trade, but can also work in at guard depending on the best fit with the similarly versatile Pat Elflein.
31 | New England Patriots — Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
In recent years, the Patriot Way has meant leaning on the arm of Tom Brady and rolling with a faction of backs filling very specific roles. But, Bill Belichick likes to switch up the formula every so often. Bringing in a bell cow back like Guice would be an intriguing way to strengthen their league-leading offense.
32 | Philadelphia Eagles — Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
The Eagles have the rare luxury of fielding a complete, championship-winning squad that will see little turnover as they look to defend. But, without a second or third-round pick, they’ll need to grab a player they like early while they can. In this case, that means reaching for Jefferson, who would come into the right scheme and situation to maximize his sheer physical talent as he refines his game.