NFL Mock Draft 2018: Browns, Broncos ignore QB; Giants, Redskins don't
With the 2017 NFL regular season in the books, 20 NFL teams are now in full draft mode and will be for the next four months. And while the all-star game circuit, NFL Combine, pro days and individual meetings and workouts ultimately will shape what will happen in late April, NFL front offices are already readying their big boards and projections to kick off the new year.
The Browns have multiple top-10 picks, but they might not be a shoe-in to use the draft to find their quarterback of the future. We should see at least three teams draft a quarterback in Round 1, however, with Baker Mayfield being the wild card.
Sam Darnold is not included in this mock draft, as he is not expected to enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
1 Cleveland Browns: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The Browns passing on a quarterback at No. 1 overall is what led to Sashi Brown being fired, and new general manager John Dorsey might feel pressure from ownership to select the quarterback he likes most with this pick. But if Dorsey has a say, he might look to find the team’s left tackle of the future (and immediate right tackle) in Williams, not unlike what he did in his first draft in Kansas City (2013, Eric Fisher.)
2 New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
Rosen is coveted for his play on the field, but when it comes to shaping culture, he won’t be that quarterback for every team. Still, it will be hard for the Giants to pass on Eli Manning’s heir apparent if they have the opportunity to draft the UCLA product.
3 Indianapolis Colts: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
A massive left tackle prospect who’s been an unheralded star for the Sooners’ offense, Brown is a plug-and-play NFL offensive tackle, with 6-7 length and 330 pounds of run-blocking value. The Colts desperately need offensive line reinforcements.
4 Cleveland Browns (via Texans): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
If the Browns pass on a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick, they likely won’t take one in the first round at all. Providing this team the best running back in franchise history since Jim Brown would make life easier for whomever plays quarterback in Cleveland in 2018.
5 Denver Broncos: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Vea in 2017 didn’t have the breakout season some NFL teams were expecting after a flashy sophomore year. But the Haloti Ngata clone is a remarkable athlete and likely won’t last long in the top 10. The Broncos could use the nose tackle upgrade.
6 New York Jets: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Jets are in play for Baker Mayfield and are one of the teams that could covet Lamar Jackson early in the draft. But outside of quarterback, they need to upgrade at receiver. Adding Sutton to pair with Robby Anderson should make for an easier job for Josh McCown and/or their quarterback of the future.
7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
The Bucs have Noah Spence as a pass-rusher, but they’d like to continue to keep their defensive line a strength. Chubb is the draft’s best defender and will be coveted by multiple top-five teams. If one of the two top offensive tackles slip to the Bucs, however, they’ll take one.
8 Chicago Bears: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
The Bears have an aging defense that has relied on free agents up until last year’s draft. Adding Fitzpatrick to play cornerback/hybrid safety can help keep their secondary a strength. Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller are pending free agents.
9 San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The 49ers have found their quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, and they got him for less than a first-round pick. Now it’s up to John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan to accelerate the roster into a playoff contender. That starts with upgrading the offensive line in the draft, then finding offensive weapons in free agency.
10 Oakland Raiders: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
The Raiders took a step back in 2017, and while part of that is on the offense’s growing pains, the defensive line certainly didn’t help. Hurst has displayed awesome hand strength to get off blocks and disrupt running lanes within the Michigan defense.
11 Miami Dolphins: Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Dolphins were hoping to upgrade at safety a year ago in the draft, but they didn't have the opportunity to select one of the feature safeties. This year, they’ll hope a high-upside (and in-state) talent like James falls into their laps.
12 Cincinnati Bengals: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Miller hasn't been a name often discussed as a high draft pick, but he’s been one of the biggest risers of the college football season. In a relatively lackluster 2018 draft class, expect offensive linemen to rise. The Bengals have been relying on their 2015 draft picks to be their bookend tackles, but that hasn't worked.
13 Washington Redskins: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Redskins still should be considered the favorites to have Kirk Cousins as their starting QB in 2018, but with the Broncos also being a possibility, it’s far from a sure thing. If Cousins does leave, Mayfield would be a perfect fit in Washington, and the Redskins have interest.
14 Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Packers don’t have an immediate need at cornerback, with Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins offering starter potential, but they have always been proactive about keeping their secondary young and talented, and Ward is a top-20 overall prospect.
15 Arizona Cardinals: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
Arizona needs to find a quarterback, but with Bruce Arians possibly retiring, it’s unclear what type of offensive focus they’ll have. Baker Mayfield fits their current offensive supporting cast, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen might be an option, but they’re best suited to keep their defense a strength while they slowly rebuild their offense.
16 Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
It’s no secret that Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome loves drafting Alabama players; he has done so early in the draft with remarkable consistency. So with the offense needing an upgrade and receiver being arguably their biggest need, it’s not a stretch to think the Ravens would covet the Alabama standout.
17 Los Angeles Chargers: Mike McGlinchey, G, Notre Dame
The Chargers have used the draft and free agency to build great depth at receiver and across their defense, and surprisingly, they don’t have many needs. Moving up for a franchise quarterback might be in the cards (not unlike what the Chiefs did in drafting Pat Mahomes a year ago), but if not, keeping the offensive line a strength would be a wise decision.
18 Seattle Seahawks: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
For some teams, Davis enters the 2018 NFL Draft process as the top cornerback. The Seahawks, who would prefer to bolster their offensive line, might opt to delay their blocking needs in favor of a new standout cornerback to keep their defensive mold intact.
19 Dallas Cowboys: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Sean Lee’s injury history, coupled with Jaylon Smith’s notable injury past, makes linebacker less of a sure thing than it appears for Dallas. Adding Smith would put Lee in more of a rotational role for 2018 and would give the Cowboys’ defense both an upgrade and some much-needed stability. Receiver is an option, as well, for the Cowboys.
20 Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Too long have the Lions relied upon mediocre running back rotations and Matthew Stafford to carry the offense. They have done well to bolster their offense with a strong supporting cast, but they need to add a runner like Guice, a complete back who can take pressure off the passing game.
21 Buffalo Bills: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
The Bills are looking for a quarterback, and they’re a team to watch in trade-up to draft Josh Rosen. But if they don’t look for a QB in Round 1, they’ll have plenty of draft picks to find one later. Instead, they could look to continue to upgrade their offensive line. Okorafor could go even higher than this.
22 Tennessee Titans: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
The Titans have relied upon Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan for a while now, and it’s time to start grooming their long-term replacements. They drafted Kevin Dodd from Clemson two years ago, and pairing him with Ferrell would be a wise move to keep their pass rush a strength.
23 Atlanta Falcons: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
Atlanta’s struggles this year after their Super Bowl run have stemmed from offensive inefficiency. But their defense is the reason they’re likely headed back to the playoffs, and they need to keep that a strong point moving forward. Hubbard has outstanding upside and would be a substantial upgrade for the long term over Courtney Upshaw at defensive end.
24 New Orleans Saints: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
While he’s not expected to enter the 2018 NFL Draft early, Edmunds is a first-round off-ball linebacker prospect who hails from a Bud Foster-coached defense that is highly respected by NFL evaluators. Explosive to the perimeter and possessing high character and mental makeup, Edmunds would be an instant impact defender for the Saints’ emerging defense.
25 Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs): Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
After addressing offensive line with their first selection in Round 1, the Bills would be wise to stockpile talent on the other side of the ball. They traded Marcel Dareus, so finding a defensive line upgrade makes sense. Again, this pick could be packaged with their earlier first-rounder to move up for a top quarterback prospect.
26 Jacksonville Jaguars: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
The Jaguars’ years of stockpiling defensive talent has finally paid off, and they’re headed to the playoffs with one of the most feared units in the NFL. They’d like to find a quarterback to replace Blake Bortles, but they’d be wise to say “thanks but no thanks” to Josh Allen. Instead, finding an upgrade for the long term over Barry Church at strong safety makes sense.
27 Los Angeles Rams: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Rams’ secondary has benefited from a talented pass rush that consistently keeps quarterbacks off balance as they attack downfield. It makes sense that they would target a ball-hawking defender who can capitalize on interception opportunities, as Jackson finished the season with the most interceptions in the country.
28 Carolina Panthers: Arden Key, DE, LSU
Talent-wise, Key is among the best prospects. But inconsistency, especially early in his junior season, coupled with off-field issues, likely pushes him into the bottom half of Round 1. The similarities between Key and Randy Gregory might worry teams.
29 Pittsburgh Steelers: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
A perfect fit for the highly skilled-yet-remarkably raw gunslinger — Allen could benefit from playing behind Ben Roethlisberger for a year or two, not unlike how Patrick Mahomes has benefited in Kansas City through his first season. The Steelers have interest in Allen.
30 Minnesota Vikings: Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Minnesota has continued to add talent to the edge, linebacking corps and secondary of their defense, but it needs to continue to add interior line strength and versatility in order to keep the defense a strength for the future. If the Vikings can’t add a top guard prospect (and Will Hernandez of UTEP might be a great fit), then plugging in Payne would be wise.
31 New England Patriots: Zach Allen, DE, Boston College
Allen officially entering the 2018 NFL Draft is unlikely, as he’s just a junior at a program known for producing four-year seniors and graduates. But if he does, he’ll be considered a potential first-round prospect with the skill set, build and mental make-up to be a standout player in the league for a long time.
32 Philadelphia Eagles: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
No longer can the Eagles rely on Jason Peters to exceed the NFL norm for left tackle health and stability, and they need to start grooming a replacement to take over for Lane Johnson at right tackle as he kicks to the left side. Rankin has experience at both positions and could play guard for the short term in Philly.