With Super Bowl LII now in the books, now is the time to turn our attention away from 2017 and set our eyes on the upcoming 2018 NFL Draft. Below is my first crack at it here at INSCMagazine!
1. Cleveland Browns- QB Sam Darnold/USC
The Browns have not won a football game in a little over a calendar year; that alone is reason for major concern. The Browns will have some serious weaponry to utilize as they try to get competitive for the first time in what seems like forever. The QB situation has been put to the back burner and it`s hurt them, especially when Wentz and Watson have had early success in their careers.
Despite his poor performance against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, I still have to believe that NFL scouts are going to salivate at his raw arm talent that can still be developed like Carson Palmer was as a Bengal when Jon Kitna was the stop-gap starter. But with Todd Haley, Darnold will be around a guy who has shown his scheme can create a lot of offense in the past.
2. New York Giants- QB Josh Rosen/UCLA
The Giants are in a place where they too can draft a successor to the franchise, the one thing they have that Cleveland, Denver, NYJ, and Buffalo is a proven NFL QB who was won two Super Bowls (no matter how lucky they may have appeared). They should probably trade down and draft any of the top OL prospects, but with Eli at 37, it`s time to consider future prospects at QB.
Many of my peers can’t simply agree on who QB1 is for the 2018 NFL draft. I am not a fan of Baker Mayfield going this high. I’m not sold on Josh Allen being worthy of this high of a selection either. At least with Rosen, you get someone who had to step in as an 18-year-old freshman for the Bruins in that experience could help him excel in his career. Remember, Eli sat behind Kurt Warner before starting over 200 games with the Giants (in a row mind you).
3. Indianapolis Colts- DE Bradley Chubb/NC State
With Frank Reich set to become the next head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he`ll have Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett at QB, which is better than the previous two situations at QB. But the rest of the team was left with bare bones of talent thanks to the failures of Ryan Grigson in his stint as GM after Bill Polian retired following the end of the Peyton Manning era leading up to the 2012 NFL Draft.
The Colts could go three ways with this pick if they decide to stay put at #3, Quinton Nelson, Saquon Barkley, or Bradley Chubb. Chubb provides more help for pass rush in a division that appears to have Watson and Mariota as main competitors. Chubb could free fall if he falls past 3 though, just saying.
4. Cleveland Browns- CB Minkah Fitzpatrick/Alabama
The Browns have this pick from the Houston Texans in the DeShaun Watson swap, ultimately this is the pick I`m most confident about, they need DB help desperately and Minkah has all the tools to be successful, maybe at a Marshon Lattimore/Jalen Ramsey level. The Browns situation at CB has to be one of the worst in the entire league, at any position.
Fitzpatrick has played more S this past season at CB, but Saban, Pruitt, and Kirby Smart all utilized his talents and you`ll notice him roaming around in the secondary. Cleveland might be able to salvage Peppers if Fitzpatrick can find some early success, they might have a chance to actually climb out of the league`s basement.
5. Denver Broncos- OG Quinton Nelson/Notre Dame
Denver is likely to sign Kirk Cousins following the aftermath of the Alex Smith trade to Washington, Denver would draft Nelson as a way to solidify their OL, and they could make it a theme if they wish since Will Hernandez and Isaiah Wynn could fall to their second round slot.
Nelson and McGlinchey had another great season which further proves that Kizer really was a crap prospect out of Notre Dame, sorry not sorry. Also, Nelson is the kind of guy like Zach Martin, David Decastro, and Brandon Scherff will impact from day one in the trenches.
6. New York Jets- QB Josh Allen/Wyoming
I can see it now, the Jets may have the chance to draft not only NC State DL Bradley Chubb (who would likely replace Muhammad Wilkerson) or Penn State RB Saquon Barkley (with Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire likely being the only backs on the roster by draft time). But the Jets need a QB more than anyone (except the Browns)! This pick is strictly a boom-bust.
Watching Allen over the last two seasons you notice three things. 1. HOLY CRAP this guy can zing it, but his throws are either off target or dropped. 2. Same system as Carson Wentz had at NDSU (same coach Craig Bohl). 3. NFL scouts LOVE him as a top 10 pick, I see what they like, but when you have bad stats the national media (NY/LA media) are going to absolute destroy this pick. I think Allen could be better with some time, not sure he`s going to get it.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- RB Saquon Barkley/Penn State
Tampa Bay has a lot of issues for a young team, they need pass rush, they need OL help, and with Doug Martin looking like a has-been they`ll need a RB. The last time Tampa drafted a RB in the first round was 13 years ago with Auburn Tiger Cadillac Williams, a runner who shares similar explosion Barkley has shown.
Barkley is the ultimate weapon at RB in today`s NFL, the Nittany Lions split him out wide, they ran him in the tackles and tried getting him in space, In an offense with Jameis Winston, OJ Howard, and Mike Evans expect Barkley to get his fair share of big plays. But Tampa will need to address OL immediately.
8. Chicago Bears- OT Connor Williams/Texas
The Bears could trust their youth on defense and sign a CB in free agency to fill
Amukamara`s spot if he leaves via free agency. They also NEED to address the RT position. Bobby Massie could potentially save them some valuable cap space to improve the team at CB/WR.
Williams was a snub in Mel Kiper`s mock draft recently, I don’t know why that would be, he`s easily a top 15 talent. Once the combine hits, we will truly know how this ends up. But for Chicago, they need to think of their investments in the backfield Mitchell Trubisky, Jordan Howard, and Tarik Cohen. Williams may not look like a reach when Chicago can protect their franchise QB for ten years.
9. San Francisco 49ers- CB Denzel Ward/Ohio State
The 49ers are in a really fun situation, they have what appears to be a franchise potential QB in Jimmy Garroppolo, they have young talent on defense in Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and LB Rueben Foster. What the 9ers need is some big help in their secondary or at WR, but Ward > Sutton/Ridley/Kirk, that simple.
Ward is next in the line of Ohio State DBs to get drafted in the first round following Bradley Roby, Eli Apple, Gareon Conley, and Marshon Lattimore notably. Ward is a true coverage CB, an asset that will be much needed in a division that includes Jared Goff and Russell Wilson. Ward and 2017 draft pick Akhello Witherspoon could be the tandem they`re seeking going into this draft class.
10. Oakland Raiders- LB Tremaine Edmunds/Virginia Tech
The Oakland Raiders have a history of wanting the biggest, fastest, and strongest athletes on the field and for their struggling defense being taken over by former Bengals DC Paul Guenther you can expect to see more athleticism on defense. If Bowman somehow sticks around in Oakland, they could look harder at Edmunds seeing his skills set.
Edmunds can be a mix of Anthony Barr and Shaq Thompson based on his physical skills (Thompson is smaller but in terms of speed and coverage skills). At 6`5 and approx. 250 lbs, he`s similar in stature to an edge rusher, with the right development, he could fill the role of Bruce Irvin and be a pro-bower for years to come. After seeing how Solomon Thomas climbed last year, Edmunds could be identical to that.
11. Miami Dolphins- CB Joshua Jackson/Iowa
The Dolphins have a couple of different issues coming their way this offseason, the Landry contract, Suh`s contract, Wake`s long term future, OL, is Parker a bust?
What about Ryan Tannehill? There`s a lot to worry about, in turn, let`s use this pick to solidify the CB position with Joshua Jackson of Iowa.
Jackson is a ballhawk and the kind of player that can change the fortunes of a football game, Xavien Howard has shown flashes of consistent play, now pair him with Jackson and continue to build the defense. Even if they cut Suh and Alonso, I still think I`d take Jackson over Smith because I think Jackson will be better in the long run, also remember that they have Jordan Phillips and Raekwon McMillan, they have talent in the front 7.
12. Cincinnati Bengals- OT Orlando Brown/Oklahoma
Orlando Brown was a major reason Baker Mayfield was able to create as much offense as he did, protecting his blind side excellently at OU. Brown is massive in stature, but does struggle with pad level and downhill blocks, however his arm length and his wingspan may assist him in pass protection.
The Bengals need to have a new plan after letting Zeitler and Whitworth go for Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher failed them in the worst way, they had their biggest drop off in the Dalton/Green era of Marvin Lewis`s reign in Cincy. Protecting Andy Dalton should be the priority for them going into next season, they still have Joe Mixon, AJ Green and maybe Tyler Eifert if he can stay healthy.
13. Washington Redskins- NT Vita Vea/Washington
Having just traded for Alex Smith, the Redskins have prepared to let Kirk Cousins walk. The Redskins also traded their top young CB in Kendall Fuller but can use this pick to help their sufferable to watch defense, it`s sad to watch talent like Ryan Kerrigan just rot in mediocrity.
Otherwise that defense still needs some major help, especially up front. Vea can play NT in a 3-4, that’s what he`s born to play, he will fight thru double teams and open up gaps for the LBs. Lining up next to Jonathan Allen and in front of Ryan Kerrigan and Mason Foster, you`ll notice a difference.
14. Green Bay Packers- DE/OLB Arden Key/LSU
I`m picturing a scenario where Green Bay either cuts or restructures the three contracts of Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson, and Randall Cobb and that could potential save them up $30.3 million (if they were released, puts them at over $50 million in cap space. They could target Courtland Sutton or Calvin Ridley but I would think they could restructure Nelson and Cobb.
Key may have fallen out of the top ten but he will test better at the combine and find his place in the middle of the 1st round. Because Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez are young players, I`m going to say Roquan Smith falls further, Key can play the edge and play a similar role Dee Ford and Bruce Irvin had when they got drafted, if Nick Perry gets hurt again, this pick will be justified.
15. Arizona Cardinals- QB Baker Mayfield/Oklahoma
The Arizona Cardinals are another team that appeared to be snake-bitten in 2017. Injuries to QB Carson Palmer, RB David Johnson, the health of Bruce Arians, among other things led to a underwhelming season in the desert. With less than $35million in cap space even with Fitzgerald restructuring, they won`t likely make a hard push at free agent QB Kirk Cousins.
New Cardinals OC Mike McCoy was asked this week about what he wants in a QB, “You want a guy who is going to be a leader, who is tough,” McCoy said. “There are different shapes and sizes. That doesn’t matter to me.” So if I may interpret him, it means that Baker`s lack of height won`t hold him back, Baker was the unchallenged leader of the Sooners for his tenure in Norman, his accuracy could bring a different element to the offense than it was with Arians.
16. Baltimore Ravens- LB Roquan Smith/Georgia
The Ravens once again fell flat in the month of December and missed the playoffs again, and right back to the 16th overall pick. The Ravens were lucky to have Alex Collins fall into their lap but the situation at WR is very dire, Maclin didn’t really gel, Perriman is a bust, and I don’t know if Mike Wallace is a long term option. But the Ravens do have a void at LB left behind by the early retirement of Zach Orr last offseason.
Ravens fans will be yelling for a playmaker, but in reality a LB to pair inside with CJ Mosley is best for the team given the history Ozzie and Eric have in drafting WRs, I for one, would presume Calvin Ridley might be the pick, but BPA is the theory I have when a top 8 pick falls to 16.
17. Los Angeles Chargers- DT DeRon Payne/Alabama
The Chargers were literally two made last minute FGs from winning the AFC West this past season, but despite the dismal 0-4 start they finished strong and built some momentum for next year. The Chargers will need to get guys like Forest Lamp, Mike Williams, Jason Verrett, and Hunter Henry back in the fold in order to be successful next season.
The Chargers will have to trust their youth to fix their OL, but Payne would be plugged in next to Joey Bosa and could wreck havoc in a division that looks to have at least two newcomers at QB (Mahomes and whoever Denver signs). Payne could go top 10 but with 4 QBs in the 1st round so far, they can reap the benefits of the QB-hungry teams.
18. Seattle Seahawks- OT Mike McGlinchey/Notre Dame
Seattle had the worst OL in the NFL last season. They couldn’t gain any leverage on the line of scrimmage. The fact they had ANY chance at the playoffs should astound you until you realize just how good Russell Wilson was at certain points last year. The team should shed some of the contracts they have, but no matter what, they need OL help.
Germain Ifedi and Ethan Pocic are young players who can lock in at G in this scenario, McGlinchey plays RT, and Duane Brown stays at LT. If I`m Seattle, I try to move back a few picks just to see if anyone else wants to make a jump at a WR, QB, or even a pass rusher. Otherwise, this team may have vastly improved their OL play in at least two positions.
19. Dallas Cowboys- WR Courtland Sutton/SMU
The Cowboys will need to evaluate how to improve with just over $20 million to spend. One way is to move on from Dez Bryant, who could find himself being a likely trade candidate or post June 1st cut. With Terrance Williams entering free agency, it leaves them thin to really improve alongside him, but Dez would free up close to $12million post June 1st.
Courtland Sutton may not be my favorite WR in this class but for what Dak likes to do, a big possession style WR would be a good fit, Dak had the benefit of D`Runnya Wilson and Fred Ross at Mississippi State and Sutton resembles the height that Wilson had. Sutton could line up on the outside of Beasley/Switzer/whoever they bring in, and help move the chains.
20. Detroit Lions- CB Isaiah Oliver/Colorado
Detroit will have a good amount of cap space to try and improve some areas. These areas should include CB (opposite of Darius Slay), pass rush (Ansah`s situation as a whole), and perhaps TE if they move on from Eric Ebron. The Lions defense was good in some spots last year but they`ll some more help with Chicago improving and Aaron Rodgers coming back healthy.
I was going to have Mike Hughes here but it appears that his combine invite might be in flux. Regardless, Oliver is still likely raw but many felt that way about Marshon Lattimore last year and he flourished. With how athletic Oliver, he and Slay might just make it work. They will need to figure out their other needs cause I doubt a big name pass rusher will fall to the 50s.
21. Buffalo Bills- DE Marcus Davenport/UTSA
The Bills may try to move up and acquire Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield and will def need both 21 and 22 to make it happen. But they also could decide on trading for AJ McCarron/Nick Foles, or even signing Sam Bradford. That’s what I believe they will do, Kirk Cousins to Buffalo just sounds farfetched at this point. With the vet QB in place and Peterman as the developmental backup (yuck), Buffalo likely stays put and selects two players.
Marcus Davenport is a name that will be all over the 1st round in the months going forward. Buffalo could use any sort of pass rush it can get to stop Tom Brady in the near future, and could help their defense that did perform well last season. Davenport`s potential is through the roof and resembles a lot to what Ziggy Ansah showed before the 2013 NFL Draft.
22. Buffalo Bills- WR Anthony Miller/Memphis
The Bills went with defense in the previous selection and Davenport is a great get at 21st overall. With the vet QB in the helm, it`s time to maybe give him a weapon to utilize alongside Zay Jones and Kelvin Benjamin. Jordan Matthews was no help and heaven forbid if Charles Clay were to miss significant time again next year and their offense goes stale, that can`t happen.
Some people may think I`m out of my freaking mind, but I love Anthony Miller`s upside and the fact that in every game against big competition, Miller is seen making big plays, teams knew he could only be contained. With his gamebreaker ability and his shiftiness along Kelvin`s size and Zay`s speed over the top, Miller can almost provide a Randall Cobb, Julian Edelman type of element.
23. Los Angeles Rams- CB Donte Jackson/LSU
The Rams had a wonderful bounce back season after departing Jeff Fisher`s pit of misery, Sean McVay completely transformed an offense that was straight ineffective to an attack of Todd Gurley and play action passing. The Rams defense had its fair share of moments of good and bad last season, and that secondary being the unit in need of another piece.
Jackson played opposite of Bills rookie TreDavious White as a sophomore and this past season he proved to be effective for LSU. He seems to have the speed and athleticism that Adoree Jackson offered in last year`s draft and the Titans trusted Jackson with certain assignments, depending on what happens with Trumaine Johnson, this may be a wise pick.
24. Carolina Panthers- WR Calvin Ridley/Alabama
Carolina could draft OG, FS, or SS here but after the Kelvin Benjamin trade and finding out Devin Funchess isn’t really a go-to-guy they need to draft a WR who can move the chains. Cam Newton did have his MVP season with Benjamin out, but this team is constructed differently.
Ridley showed some explosion but Ridley reminds of a mix between Jarvis Landry/Keenan Allen in the aspect of being able to move the chains, but doesn`t appear as explosive as they are. Carolina would use him as a perimeter threat to offset McCaffrey and Olsen in the middle of the field.
25. Tennessee Titans- S Derwin James/Florida State
The Tennessee Titans did have an All-Pro S in Kevin Byard last season, but they also had Jonathan Cyprien and Da`Norris Searcy who have been completely ineffective, the defense was solid at certain points but the extra help in the secondary could help their pass rush. They could pursue OL as well with Ben Jones being overpaid and the below average G play they`ve had (not buying Josh Kline really).
Derwin James has fallen far since the beginning of the season, he`s viewed as a leader for the Noles but after a season where Jimbo took off and FSU nearly missed bowl eligibility, it`s not the talent that will be asked about, it will be the circus in Talahassee that the questions will be centered around. James pairing with Byard might have James play more of a box safety role, but I don`t know how that would be pieced together by Dean Pees who had Tony Jefferson and Eric Weddle last season in Baltimore.
26. Atlanta Falcons- DE Sam Hubbard/Ohio State
The Atlanta Falcons might not be able to avoid the 28-3 jokes, but they should try to improve their DL that was soft, especially in that Philly game in the divisional round. They did take Taak McKinley last year but they could honestly use another body if Connor Barwin were to be released. Atlanta doesn’t have much cap space to do much currently either, so its limited that they`ll be able to get help in URFA.
Hubbard and Nick Bosa were deadly at times last year, including a dominant showing against USC in the Cotton Bowl. He`s kind of a guy who never quite showed how talented he truly was but sometimes that doesn’t always matter, Hubbard still could be a 1st rounder.
27. New Orleans Saints- QB Mason Rudolph/Oklahoma State
I once ridiculed the New Orleans Saints for resigning QB Drew Brees before last season because of their lack of direction. It`s now 17 months later and they were one tackle away from a favorable NFC Championship matchup against Philly.
Brees, like Brady, is benefiting from good management at this juncture of his career, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Marshon Lattimore, Vonn Bell, Alex Anzalone, Sheldon Rankins, and Marcus Williams are among the group of recent draft picks that have taken the Saints out of mediocrity this season.
The Saints need a future asset at QB after Garrett Grayson got run out of New Orleans. Mason Rudolph started out at Oklahoma State behind JW Walsh and despite being a senior. Rudolph played in an offense where he had to push the tempo for three years, so schematically, its about Rudolph keeping up. The former Oklahoma State senior is only 21 years old. The Saints could definitely take advantage of that 5th year that you get with the 1st round pick, especially if Brees does decide to play three more years or so, Rudolph will still be under 25 and on a rookie deal.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers- S Ronnie Harrison/Alabama
The Steelers had more dysfunction than basically any other team in the football world over the past calendar year. The Bell drama, AB drama, Haley vs. Big Ben… and once again, we saw yet another typical lackluster playoff defeat by the Steelers. They did lose Ryan Shazier to a scary injury and that was the rallying cry for them, but they weren`t good enough, plain and simple.
Harrison has been apart of a lot of winning in Alabama, playing with Anthony Averett, Levi Wallace, and Minkah Fitzpatrick in the secondary, they were a great team and each made their fair share of plays. Harrison can be a more athletic Mike Mitchell and save the team $7million they might need to resign Leveon Bell.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars- OG Will Hernandez/UTEP
The Jaguars finally showed signs of their sky-high potential last season by reaching the AFC Championship game against the juggernaut New England Patriots. Despite the defeat, the Jaguars have a lot of momentum going forward. They have a talented RB in Fournette, a group of playmaking WRs, and a great defense.
Some help at OL and a long term QB are notable needs. Keep an eye on FS and NB too! If they want to make a play at Kirk Cousins, they may move on from Aaron Colvin and Tashaun Gipson to clear cap space. Hernandez is a big bruising G who sort of has a Mike Iupati style in him. The Jaguars do have a need at LG, and he slides in as a year-one starter, this helps Fournette and Yeldon as well as their WRs in play action, especially if the OL makes major strides.
30. Minnesota Vikings- OG Isaiah Wynn/Georgia
The Vikings took advantage of the year Aaron Rodgers went down, they had one of the best defenses in football, and they got to the NFC Championship Game. With the QB situation in limbo, a young RB in Dalvin Cook in the backfield and a need in the trenches, it makes sense to invest more in the interior OL.
Wynn was one of the unsung heroes for Georgia this season. They were able to run the ball with Chubb and Michel efficiently all season with the exception of the Auburn loss in November and the 2nd half of the National Title Game vs. Alabama. Wynn is battle tested going up against some of the best DL in college football in the SEC.
31. New England Patriots- ILB Malik Jefferson/Texas
The Patriots defense was complete garbage until the middle part of the season. The injuries suffered all over the field didn’t help matters either. The Patriots will need to be on lookout for the next successor to Tom Brady, but likely not a position to address in the first round. Instead grab a defensive player who can add some raw athleticism to the defense.
Jefferson was the #1LB recruit in the country and despite the Longhorns failing to meet expectations, Jefferson had to go through a coaching change and he managed to maintain his production. Pairing Hightower with Jefferson could form an athletic LB duo.
32. Philadelphia Eagles- WR Christian Kirk/Texas A&M
The Eagles get royally screwed for 1st round level line talent. Reaching for an OT might be unnecessary, but the Eagles will need to figure out their cap situation. They`ll have to figure out what to do with Nick Foles, Jason Peters, Torrey Smith, Brandon Graham, and Chris Maragos. All four could open up a little cap space to try and make some noise in March.
Passing on Brian O`Neil and Matheus Rankin here, I go with Christian Kirk, a playmaker that`ll give them a speed threat in the slot similar to what Tyreek Hill gave Pedersen in Kansas City. There`s no way I see Philadelphia paying Smith $5million next year to be a 3rd WR. If the Eagles like Mack Hollins however, you`d likely see a trade down in this scenario.