Did this year’s NFL Draft sneak up on anybody else? If just seeing this post shocked you, I have news, the Draft starts TOMORROW! Taking place in Dallas this year, the 1st Round is tomorrow night, with Rounds 2 and 3 on Friday night, and Rounds 4 through 7 on Saturday afternoon.
This is as intriguing a 1st Round of a Draft that I can ever remember. There are five major quarterback prospects… Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson (in no particular order). There are teams with picks in the Top-5 who are almost definitely going to take one of those guys. There are also plenty of teams outside the Top-5 who may look to trade up to grab them.
It’s a bit of a top heavy 1st Round, with about 12-14 guys who are considered blue chip prospects, and then a lot of guys that could make a big impact, but could just as easily be a bust.
For this mock draft, it’s a mix of what I think will happen and what I would do if I were picking for these teams. I have decided to predict some trades that may happen, I think I wind up with four trades in the 1st Round. I’ve also mocked the 2nd Round here as well.
Tomorrow afternoon, just a few hours prior to the Draft, I will have Version 2.0 of my NFL Mock Draft, where myself and my good friend Jeff Greco went back and forth picking for the teams in the 1st Round, so stay tuned for that.
Without any more discussion, here is Version 1.0 of We Love Sportz’s 2018 NFL Mock Draft!
1 – Cleveland Browns
Team Needs: QB, OL, DB
Pick – QB Sam Darnold, USC
If you ask me, they should take the best player in the draft (Saquon Barkley) and see what QB is there when they pick again at #4. But they have the chance to get the QB they love the most, and they will. You can miss me with all the smokescreens too. Darnold probably has the highest floor of the QB prospects in this class, especially given he has no off-field concerns. He’ll benefit from sitting for a season behind Tyrod Taylor.
2 – New York Giants
Team Needs: DL, OL, RB
Pick – RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Taking Eli Manning’s eventual successor makes a lot of sense here. So does replacing Jason Pierre-Paul with the best D-Line prospect (Chubb). However, the Giants know they need to nail this pick, and Barkley is a superstar. The G-Men haven’t had a superstar at running back since Tiki Barber. Barkley will add a dynamic threat to an offense that struggled mightily at times last season.
3 – New York Jets (from Indianapolis)
Team Needs: QB, DL, OL
Pick – QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
This is going to be a quarterback. There’s no ifs, ands or buts. The Jets traded three 2nd Round picks (two this year, one in 2019) to move up three spots, ensuring them one of the top three QBs in the class. It’s hard to predict which one they’ll take, but Allen is your prototypical NFL quarterback as far as size and measurables go. He has the highest ceiling in this class, but also the most bust potential.
4 – Cleveland Browns (from Houston)
Team Needs: OL, DB, RB
Pick – EDGE Bradley Chubb, NC State
The Browns got this pick by trading back in last year’s 1st Round, with the Texans moving up to grab Deshaun Watson. After securing their quarterback of the future at #1, Cleveland finds themselves in a spot where they can give their team one of the most fearsome defensive lines in the league. Myles Garrett on one side, Bradley Chubb on the other. Roethlisberger, Flacco and Dalton could be in for a world of hurt if this comes to fruition.
5 – Denver Broncos
Team Needs: DB, OL, WR
Pick – QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
The Broncos could replace Aqib Talib by taking the top cornerback in the class, or they could snag Quenton Nelson and add an impact player to a putrid offensive line. However, despite signing Case Keenum to a 2-year deal this offseason, taking a QB is still very much in the cards. Baker Mayfield could be a superstar in the NFL. He could also be a massive bust if he doesn’t change off the field. I think John Elway will be willing to take the risk.
We now have our first trade of the mock draft. The Colts are reportedly looking to move down again, in order to stockpile picks and go through a massive roster overhaul. That makes a ton of sense. Meanwhile, with three QBs off the board already, there should be teams looking to move up. The Bills have a ton of ammo and a major need at the position, so I believe they would be the team to make the move.
Buffalo receives Picks 1.6 and 2.37
Indianapolis receives Picks 1.12 (via CIN), 1.22 (via KC) and 2.56
The Colts pick up another 1st Rounder, giving them two 1st’s and three 2nd’s in this draft. In order to get both of the Bills’ 1st Round picks, they move back 19 spots with one of their 2nd Round picks. This trade makes a lot of sense for both teams.
6 – Buffalo Bills (from NY Jets via Indianapolis)
Team Needs: QB, OL, WR
Pick – QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
In a perfect world, I think the Bills would move up to #2 and take whichever of Darnold or Allen are available after the Browns pick. I just don’t think the Giants trade down unless they get a king’s ransom. Instead, the Bills move up to #6 and grab who I believe is the best pure quarterback prospect in this class. There are off-field concerns around Rosen, as well as durability issues, but as far as playing football goes, there isn’t a better QB coming out in 2018. The Bills could comfortably start him right away, or let him sit behind AJ McCarron for a season.
7 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Team Needs: DB, RB, OL
Pick – S Derwin James, Florida State
It was a disappointing 2017 season for the Bucs, but I still do not think they are very far off from contending in the NFC. Running back is the biggest hole on their roster, but there are good prospects to be had there later on. Derwin James is a popular name right now, moving past Minkah Fitzpatrick on most boards. He’s a big, physical safety who will add a necessary punch to the back end of the Bucs’ defense.
8 – Chicago Bears
Team Needs: OL, DL, DB
Pick – OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
I would like to go on record as saying that there is absolutely zero chance Quenton Nelson gets past the Bears at #8. It’s just the perfect draft pick. A future Hall of Fame offensive guard going to a team with a massive need on the offensive line and just happened to have signed the previously mentioned player’s offensive line coach from college. Nelson might be the best “football player” in this draft class. It would be a fabulous pick for the Bears if he lasts this long.
9 – San Francisco 49ers
Team Needs: DB, DL, OL
Pick – LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
After trading for Jimmy Garoppolo last season, the Niners were one of the best teams in football. Expectations are super high for them this upcoming season. In order to reach those expectations, they must improve on defense. While not one of their top needs, linebacker could become a hole on their roster, with the legal troubles of last year’s 1st Round pick Reuben Foster. Smith is a sideline-to-sideline thumper who can play inside or outside for the Niners.
I believe that another trade would occur here. I get the feeling that the Raiders love a few prospects that they don’t want to take this high. Meanwhile, there’s one more QB on the board that some teams may fall in love with, and the Dolphins at #11 have a need at the QB position. Rather than sit back and risk Miami making the plunge, I believe the Patriots would move up and get a player that they are reportedly very intrigued by, to eventually take over for Tom Brady.
New England receives 1.10
Oakland receives 1.23, 2.43 (via SF), 3.95, 2019 5th Round Pick
In this scenario, rather than demand both of New England’s 1st Round picks, the Raiders are happy to pick up a second pick in both Rounds 2 and 3. They have a lot of holes on their roster to fill, and these days, any pick in the first three rounds is an expected starter. The future 5th Rounder is a throw-in to seal the deal. The Raiders won’t make a deal with their dreaded rivals for the appropriate value, they will have to overpay. The Patriots get to move up and get their guy while still holding on to their other 1st Rounder. A great trade for them.
10 – New England Patriots (from Oakland)
Team Needs: OL, DB, LB
Pick – QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Is this a little high for Jackson? Yeah, probably. But #10 was considered too high for Patrick Mahomes last year, but the Chiefs like him so much that they let Alex Smith walk. #12 was considered too high for Deshaun Watson last year, but I bet the Texans don’t regret that pick. Lamar Jackson could very easily be the next Michael Vick. The Pats can afford to groom him and let him learn some tricks from arguably the greatest QB to ever play the game. As a Patriots hater, I do not want them to get Lamar Jackson. I like him too much. But I do think it’s a very real possibility.
11 – Miami Dolphins
Team Needs: DL, LB, QB
Pick – DT Vita Vea, Washington
It would be mildly disappointing for the Dolphins to miss out on the top quarterbacks in this class, but they do still have Ryan Tannehill. He’s coming off an injury and he has yet to come close to his potential, but who knows what could happen this year. Rather than reach for a QB, the replace the departed Ndamukong Suh with another monster in Vea. The things that he can do at his size are extraordinary, and he won’t be a character issue like Suh was.
12 – Indianapolis Colts (from Cincinnati via Buffalo)
Team Needs: OL, DL, LB
Pick – LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
I only listed three needs here, but outside of quarterback (assuming Andrew Luck is at least somewhat healthy), the Colts need to upgrade every position on the roster. They start with the uber-athletic Edmunds. He is one of, if not the, best pure athletes in this draft class. He played a lot of inside linebacker at VT, but NFL people think he projects best as an outside guy. The Colts need help inside and out, so Edmunds fits the bill.
13 – Washington Redskins
Team Needs: DL, LB, DB
Pick – CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Skins think they are fairly set on offense, especially with Alex Smith replacing Kirk Cousins. They never appreciated Cousins like they should have. Anyway, their defense needs a lot of work. Luckily for them, with the way the board fell here, the top corner in the class falls right into their lap. Ward is a tad undersized at 5-10, but he has great ball skills and the speed necessary to keep up with NFL receivers. He’ll fit in nicely opposite Josh Norman.
14 – Green Bay Packers
Team Needs: DB, OL, LB
Pick – CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
It’s rare to see the Packers drafting this high, but it affords them a chance to add one of the top prospects in this class to a loaded roster. They could upgrade their protection for Aaron Rodgers, but the way the board has fallen, a player that many consider a Top-5 prospect is available, and I’d expect them to jump. The Packers have one great defensive back from Alabama, why not add another? Fitzpatrick can play all over the field, and Green Bay will do a great job maximizing his talents.
15 – Arizona Cardinals
Team Needs: QB, DB, OL
Pick – CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
Cardinals’ fans cannot feel comfortable heading into this season with Sam Bradford as their starting QB, and I expect they’ll be involved in talks to move into the Top-10 to get one of the big QBs. I feel they’ll be outbid, so they’ll stay put and improve their defense instead. Their defensive backfield was very leaky last season, and Jaire Alexander would be a massive improvement at the cornerback position. He is undersized like Denzel Ward, but he is extremely quick and reactive. He ran a 4.38 40 at the combine.
16 – Baltimore Ravens
Team Needs: WR, LB, OL
Pick – WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Ozzie Newsome loves Alabama players. John Harbaugh could use a #1 receiver. A match made in heaven. Despite the additions of John Brown, Michael Crabtree and Willie Snead, the Ravens’ offense lacks a true star at the receiver position for Joe Flacco. Ridley has the potential to be that star. He is a lot like another Alabama receiver, Amari Cooper. Not super tall, not super quick, but a great route runner and very talented after the catch.
17 – Los Angeles Chargers
Team Needs: OL, DT, DB
Pick – OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
The Chargers would love to see one of the class’s top safeties, Fitzpatrick or James, fall to them at #17, but I don’t see that happening. They’ll improve in the trenches with this pick instead. A pass-rushing defensive tackle would help out Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the edges, but they are still committed to Philip Rivers for at least one more season, so they should look to improve their poor offensive line. McGlinchey may not be good enough to move to left tackle, but he’ll be an above average right tackle for a long time in this league.
18 – Seattle Seahawks
Team Needs: DL, OL, TE
Pick – EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
It seems kind of weird, but the Seahawks are going to be in a bit of a rebuilding mode this season. They are making a ton of changes on the defensive side of the ball, and could use some pass rushing help after losing Sheldon Richardson and trading Michael Bennett. Davenport is raw, but he has all the athletic traits necessary to be a premier pass rusher in the NFL.
19 – Dallas Cowboys
Team Needs: LB, WR, DB
Pick – WR D.J. Moore, Maryland
You can argue whether it was the right decision or not, but the Cowboys have moved on from the volatile Dez Bryant. That leaves them in desperate need for a #1 receiver for Dak Prescott. The defense has some needs, but they can be addressed later on. With Ridley off the board, I think there’s only one other potential #1 WR in this class, and that’s the rising Moore out of Maryland. Like his fellow Terrapin Stefon Diggs, Moore is a big body with great speed and above average hands. Diggs was a 5th Round pick, but would be a 1st Rounder in hindsight.
20 – Detroit Lions
Team Needs: DL, OL, RB
Pick – OG Will Hernandez, UTEP
The Lions’ defense was much improved last season, and they don’t have a lot of areas of need on that side of the ball. A defensive tackle or edge rushing depth could be the move here, but I think they should try to improve their run game early and often in this draft. It’s a deep running back class, so in the 1st Round, they can improve the middle of their offensive line. Hernandez is probably the nastiest offensive lineman in this class. He will help open up some holes for whoever is in the backfield with Matthew Stafford next season.
21 – Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo)
Team Needs: OL, WR, DB
Pick – OG/C James Daniels, Iowa
The Bengals traded back to this spot during the offseason, acquiring offensive tackle Cordy Glenn from the Bills along with this pick for the #12 pick in this year’s draft. The defense will go through some changes with DC Paul Guenther leaving to take the same position on Jon Gruden’s staff in Oakland. However, there are more pressing needs on the offensive side of the ball. Acquiring Glenn should not stop the Bengals from adding to their line, and Daniels is the best center in this class.
22 – Indianapolis Colts (from Kansas City via Buffalo)
Team Needs: OL, DL, LB
Pick – LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
In the scenario created here, the Colts move back to #12 and #22, and they double dip in the linebacker position. They have three 2nd Round picks, so they have the luxury to be able to do that. Their first pick, Tremaine Edmunds, projects as an outside linebacker, so the Colts scoop up Evans to man the inside. Many teams may have hesitation with Evans due to the recent history of Alabama linebackers, but Evans is as clean off the field as they get. And he’s really good on it.
23 – Oakland Raiders (from LA Rams via New England)
Team Needs: DT, LB, DB
Pick – OT Kolton Miller, UCLA
Yes, I just listed three defensive positions as the Raiders’ three biggest needs but have them taking an offensive tackle. Hear me out. Trading back gives them a few extra picks, so they can address the defense often in this draft. They are paying Derek Carr too much money not to protect him, they’ve been weak at right tackle for a while, and left tackle Donald Penn probably doesn’t have many years left. Miller is likely to be the best left tackle in this class, so Jon Gruden jumps all over him here.
24 – Carolina Panthers
Team Needs: DB, OL, WR
Pick – S Justin Reid, Stanford
I like the idea of the Panthers getting a top receiver or tight end to help out Cam Newton, but I don’t think there are any worth taking here. Instead, they plug a hole on their defense with the rising Reid out of Stanford. He projects as a better player than his brother Eric, who was also a late 1st Round pick. Justin has great size, speed and ball skills. He’s exactly what the back end of the Panthers’ defense needs.
25 – Tennessee Titans
Team Needs: DL, LB, WR
Pick – EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
It was a fantastic season for the Tennessee Titans, and I believe that they are just a few pieces away from becoming real contenders in the AFC. They have some weaknesses in the front seven, and I expect them to use multiple picks early to address it. Landry was looking like a Top-10 pick before injuries derailed him last season. But if you look at him pre-injury, he shows the ability to be a double-digit sack guy on a regular basis in the NFL.
26 – Atlanta Falcons
Team Needs: DL, WR, TE
Pick – DT Taven Bryan, Florida
The Falcons, as long as they have Dan Quinn at the helm and Matt Ryan at quarterback, will be contenders in the NFC. I believe that affords them the opportunity to shoot for the moon with this pick. Defensive tackle is a major position of need for this team, and while there are players who will give better production from the get-go, there might not be a DT with a higher ceiling in this class than Bryan. He is still learning the position, but with Dan Quinn able to coach him up, he could end up being the best defensive player from this draft.
27 – New Orleans Saints
Team Needs: TE, QB, OL
Pick – TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
I guess part of me could see the Saints making a move up to take a QB-in-waiting behind Drew Brees. A lot of people would love to see Lamar Jackson end up in New Orleans. I think that could be a lot of fun as well. But I don’t see the Saints moving up as far as it would take to get him. Since trading Jimmy Graham, Brees has not had a reliable option at tight end. The Saints get him one here in Goedert, the small school tight end who can line up in the slot as a big wide receiver. He can be exactly what Jimmy Graham was to the Saints.
28 – Pittsburgh Steelers
Team Needs: LB, DB, WR
Pick – LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
As long as Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown are wearing the black and gold, the Steelers will be Super Bowl contenders. They have some holes on defense that they are likely to fill early in this draft. Vander Esch is somebody that experts believe could wind up as the best linebacker from this draft class. He can play inside or outside, and that versatility will be very attractive to Mike Tomlin and company.
29 – Jacksonville Jaguars
Team Needs: WR, OL, TE
Pick – OT/OG Connor Williams, Texas
The Jaguars were just a couple plays away from a trip to the Super Bowl last season. They re-signed Blake Bortles because they think they can win with him at QB. I think they’ll draft a developmental quarterback in this draft, but not this early. They can either get Bortles a weapon or help keep him upright. Connor Williams played left tackle at Texas, but he could start his NFL career inside at guard. The Jags will find a spot for him along their line.
30 – Minnesota Vikings
Team Needs: OL, DB, TE
Pick – OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
The Vikings were just a win away from a trip to the Super Bowl last year, and they just replaced Case Keenum with Kirk Cousins. Most people will pick the Eagles to repeat as NFC champs, but I believe that the Vikings should be the favorites. Dalvin Cook will return healthy, and to help him out, the Vikings grab Wynn, who can slot in all across the line. He’s a little short for tackle, but he’s a super-athletic guard. He’ll open up plenty of running lanes for Cook.
Trade #3 of the 1st Round happens right here, with the Cardinals moving up to the back end of the 1st Round to grab a QB after missing out on one of the Top-5 passers.
Arizona receives 1.31
New England receives 2.47, 3.79
The Pats gave up a 2nd and a 3rd to move from 23 to 10 in the 1st Round, so they recoup those picks by giving up their other 1st Rounder. The Cardinals give up their picks in those rounds in an effort to get two impact players in the 1st Round. A fair trade-off.
31 – Arizona Cardinals (from New England)
Team Needs: QB, DB, OL
Pick – QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
After the first five quarterbacks, number six is a gunslinger out of Stillwater named Mason Rudolph. He did not play in a pro-style offense at Oklahoma State, but that has not always been a negative. He’s a big kid with a big arm, and he can learn some things from Sam Bradford. The hope here is that Bradford stays healthy enough to give Rudolph the developmental year that he needs.
A lot of years we see some late trades in the 1st Round, most often so teams can go grab a slipping prospect or a quarterback that they don’t want to wait for. I believe we get one more trade here, but this time, it’s for a player with some medical red flags that could be one of the biggest steals of this draft if the health stays in check.
Oakland receives 1.32
Philadelphia receives 2.41, 3.95 (via NE)
The Eagles do not have picks in the 2nd or 3rd Rounds this year, but with a lot of solid prospects to be available in those rounds, they’ll happily trade this pick at the end of the 1st. Meanwhile, the Raiders give up their own 2nd Rounder and the 3rd they picked up in the earlier trade with New England.
32 – Oakland Raiders (from Philadelphia)
Team Needs: DT, LB, DB
Pick – DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
At the NFL Combine, Hurst was red flagged by a lot of teams for some irregularities with his heart. That will surely scare some teams off. However, the Raiders have such a need for a pass rushing defensive tackle that they should be willing to move up to grab this guy. A risk, certainly, but one worth taking. Hurst has incredible get-off at the snap, and while he is a little undersized, he has the most pass rushing potential among the defensive tackles in this draft class.
*Picks in Bold are based on trades that occurred in my mock draft*
- Cleveland Browns – RB Derrius Guice, LSU
- New York Giants – OT Brian O’Neill, Pittsburgh
- Cleveland Browns (from Houston) – CB Mike Hughes, UCF
- Indianapolis Colts (from NY Jets) – C/OG Billy Price, Ohio State
- Buffalo Bills (from Indianapolis) – S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB Sony Michel, Georgia
- Chicago Bears – EDGE Lorenzo Carter, Georgia
- Denver Broncos – CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
- Philadelphia Eagles (from Oakland) – DT Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
- Miami Dolphins – TE Hayden Hurst, South Carolina
- Oakland Raiders (from San Francisco via New England) – RB Ronald Jones II, USC
- Washington Redskins – RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
- Green Bay Packers – EDGE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
- Cincinnati Bengals – CB Donte Jackson, LSU
- New England Patriots (from Arizona) – CB/S M.J. Stewart, North Carolina
- Los Angeles Chargers – S Jessie Bates III, Wake Forest
- Indianapolis Colts (from Seattle) – WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
- Dallas Cowboys – TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State
- Detroit Lions – DT Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama
- Baltimore Ravens – C/OG Frank Ragnow, Arkansas
- Buffalo Bills – WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
- Kansas City Chiefs – CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
- Carolina Panthers – CB Anthony Averett, Alabama
- Indianapolis Colts (from LA Rams via Buffalo) – OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
- Tennessee Titans – DT Poona Ford, Texas
- Atlanta Falcons – WR D.J. Chark, LSU
- San Francisco 49ers (from New Orleans) – TE Mark Andrews, Oklahoma
- Pittsburgh Steelers – WR Daesean Hamilton, Penn State
- Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Luke Falk, Washington State
- Minnesota Vikings – CB Carlton Davis, Auburn
- New England Patriots – EDGE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Oklahoma
- Cleveland Browns (from Philadelphia) – OT Geron Christian, Louisville