NFL mock draft: How will Patriots take advantage of extra first-round pick?

The 2018 NFL draft is unlike many others we’ve seen before. There’s a clear-cut No. 1 talent in Penn State running back Saquon Barkley who doesn’t play a premium position.

There are several quarterbacks with first-round grades, but none that scream No. 1 pick.

And, as usual, there are plenty of teams in need of a signal-caller, which should all add up to a draft night ripe for moves and intrigue. But we’re not going to predict trades that haven’t happened yet and will assign all picks to their current positions. What – do you think we have a crystal ball?

Let’s get to prognosticating.

(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
(Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)

1: Cleveland Browns – USC QB Sam Darnold

There’s no way the Browns pass up a chance at a franchise QB here, even with their trade for Tyrod Taylor. With questions about Josh Allen’s accuracy, Baker Mayfield’s maturity and Josh Rosen’s desire floating about, Darnold looks like the safest pick.

2: New York Giants – UCLA QB Josh Rosen

The intrigue is thick at the second pick with the Giants at odds with star receiver Odell Beckham and in limbo about whether they’re rebuilding or building for now. Either way, Eli Manning is not getting younger or better, so Rosen can nurture his football and outside interests in the Big Apple while spending a redshirt year during Manning’s swan song.

Will the Jets gamble on the high upside of Josh Allen with the No. 3 pick? (Getty)
Will the Jets gamble on the high upside of Josh Allen with the No. 3 pick? (Getty)

3: New York Jets (from Colts) – Wyoming QB Josh Allen

The Jets didn’t trade up from the No. 6 pick to pass on a QB. Allen has all the sexiness (arm strength) and questions (accuracy) to be a perfect fit for a Jets team that hasn’t figured out the quarterback spot in most of our lifetimes. This isn’t to say Allen won’t be successful, but he’s by far the biggest gamble of the top-tier quarterbacks.

4: Cleveland Browns – Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

The Browns find themselves in the rare position here of feeling like they’re in control. There are plenty of options, including the extremely enticing idea of pairing up Myles Garrett with a Bradley Chubb (N.C. State) or Tremaine Edmunds (Va. Tech) to create a potentially devastating pass rush. But can the Browns resist a generational talent like Barkley a second time? We’re guessing not. Even with Carlos Hyde on the roster.

5: Denver Broncos – Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson

Quarterback has been the issue in Denver since (or really before, if we’re being honest here) Peyton Manning retired. But John Elway committed big bucks for two years to Case Keenum in the offseason and seems to have the pieces to make another run before an aging defense goes the way of the Seahawks. Improve a weak spot on the team with by all accounts a monster of a guard in Nelson, and protect the new investment.

The Colts could see tremendous value if Bradley Chubb falls to them as the first defensive player off the board. (AP)
The Colts could see tremendous value if Bradley Chubb falls to them as the first defensive player off the board. (AP)

6: Indianapolis Colts (from Jets) – N.C. State DE Bradley Chubb

The Colts have the luxury of drafting high and already possessing a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck (if his shoulder’s OK that is) and can take the best player available to fill one of their myriad needs. That player is Chubb, a dangerous pass rusher who looks ready to terrorize NFL quarterbacks from Day 1.

7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ohio State CB Denzel Ward

The Bucs were atrocious on defense last year and have to face Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Drew Brees twice each season and maybe once again in the playoffs if they’re lucky. They could go for a dynamic linebacker in Edmonds or Alabama do-it-all safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. But corner is the most direct need here, and Ward fits the bill as an NFL cover man who could increase the Bucs’ chances of slowing down the Julio Joneses of the world.

8: Chicago Bears – Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds

The Bears need to fill several holes, and getting playmakers for Mitchell Trubisky is a top priority. But that playmaker isn’t here at this point in the draft, so Edmunds will do quite nicely. A dynamic linebacker who can rush off the edge, play the run or drop back in coverage, Edmunds, 19, is young and can develop with a team not in a hurry to win.

9: San Francisco 49ers – Alabama S Minkah Fitzpatrick

With the late-season arrival and emergence of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers find themselves moving from the dregs to eying the playoffs and should look for the best available player here. Fitzpatrick is the modern, versatile secondary talent who can play all over the field. Finding a spot for him won’t be a problem in San Francisco.

10: Oakland Raiders – Washington DT Vita Vea

After failing to attract Ndamukong Suh in the offseason, the Raiders are still looking to upgrade at defensive tackle. Fortunately, Vea is one of the top prospects on the board at this point and fills that need. A nimble 340-pounder who fills run gaps and possesses techniques to pressure the passer in the NFL, Vea is no-brainer if he’s available.

11: Miami Dolphins – Alabama DT Da’ron Payne

Speaking of Suh, the Dolphins now have a giant fresh void in the middle of their defensive line. Payne is a run-stuffer with impressive athleticism and play-making ability (remember his interception and touchdown catch against Clemson in the Sugar Bowl?). The Dolphins would be happy to take him here.

12: Buffalo Bills (from Bengals) – Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield

After trading Tyrod Taylor, moving up to this spot from the 21st pick and signing A.J. McCarron to backup money, the Bills are playing their cards face up. They’re going after a quarterback. They could move up further, but with the Jets trading up into the top three, there may not be a point. If they liked one of the three signal-callers taken higher here, Mayfield is a nice consolation prize. Underrated Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson could be a wild card here.

13: Washington Redskins – UCF CB Mike Hughes

As usual, Washington has several holes to fill. The interior defensive line has gone insufficiently addressed for years. Chris Thompson needs a thunder to his lightning in the backfield. But with the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland, cornerback is all of the sudden a desperate need. Fast, technically sound and with a nose for the ball, Hughes would pair up immediately across from Josh Norman.

14: Green Bay Packers – UT San Antonio DE Marcus Davenport

The Packers could go cornerback or pass rusher here, but Davenport is a steal at this point in the draft and an easy pick if they can get him. A 6-foot-6-inch, 260-pound bull with upside, Davenport has the power and athleticism to wreck a backfield from the edge in pass and run defense.

Former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson could team up with David Johnson to create a dangerous backfield in Arizona.(AP)
Former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson could team up with David Johnson to create a dangerous backfield in Arizona.(AP)

15: Arizona Cardinals – Louisville QB Lamar Jackson

The Cardinals are a mess and could go in several directions here. But if they fall on the rational Jackson-is-a-QB-not-a-receiver side of the ledger, he’s the choice. A dynamic quarterback whose accuracy problems are overstated, Jackson’s upside is huge. Get a quarterback who can develop with David Johnson while he’s still in his prime. A fragile Sam Bradford is just a stopgap.

16: Baltimore Ravens – Alabama WR Calvin Ridley

It’s clear that 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman is not who the Ravens thought they drafted. Newly signed 31-year-old Michael Crabtree is not the long-term answer. Fast, athletic and a reliable pass catcher, Ridley has the traits of a playmaker in the NFL and is by far the best option in a weak crop of receivers. If the Ravens pass on Ridley, pickings are slim down the line.

17: Los Angeles Chargers – Georgia ILB Roquan Smith

The Chargers can still wait to think about replacing Philip Rivers as they have immediate needs on the offensive line and in a linebacker corps that struggled against the run last year. Smith is an excellent value here and breaks the tie. A fast, rangy linebacker, Smith can shore up the run defense and drop back in coverage while Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram terrorize the quarterback.

18: Seattle Seahawks – Iowa CB Josh Jackson

The Legion of Boom has been busted up, leaving the Seahawks facing a defensive makeover. They also need help on the offensive line, as usual, but they’ll likely ignore that problem here, as usual. Richard Sherman’s departure leaves an immediate hole at cornerback that Jackson can fill. At 6-1, he has good size for the position and elite playmaking abilities, if not great speed. Sound familiar?

19: Dallas Cowboys – FSU S Derwin James

The Cowboys would love to make a splash at receiver, but Ridley is gone already, so defense it is. Another hybrid safety who can line up almost anywhere in the back end of a defense, James is a strong, fast playmaker Dallas can plug in multiple spots in coverage or as a blitzer. A meniscus tear in 2016 dropped his stock a bit, but he could provide tremendous value at this spot.

20: Detroit Lions – Michigan DT Maurice Hurst

The Lions haven’t had a run game seemingly since Barry Sanders and could easily justify an upgrade here. But they don’t have a pass-rush to speak of outside of Ziggy Ansah, making Hurst the priority. Hurst makes up for his relative small stature (6-2, 280 pounds) with speed and athleticism, giving him the upside of a top-end interior rusher.

21: Cincinnati Bengals (from Bills) – Iowa C James Daniels

Content with Andy Dalton, the Bengals took advantage of the league’s quarterback scramble to trade down. They’ll be able to address their needs here with a player they might have considered at No. 12. Having already netted left tackle Cordy Glenn in the Bills trade, Cincinnati still needs improvement across the line. Center is the biggest need with the departure of Russell Bodine, and Daniels is the best center in the draft with a first-round grade.

22: Buffalo Bills (from Chiefs) – Alabama ILB Rashaan Evans

The Bills have their QB in Mayfield and will look to fill holes at receiver or plug leaks in the linebacker and cornerback corps. Evans is the best remaining prospect to fit that bill and looks like the next NFL-ready linebacker to come out of the first round from Alabama. He played all over the field for Nick Saban and should help improve a leaky rush defense that finished 29th in the league.

The Patriots could look to former Texas OL Connor Williams to replace Nate Solder with the pick gained in the Brandin Cooks trade. (AP)
The Patriots could look to former Texas OL Connor Williams to replace Nate Solder with the pick gained in the Brandin Cooks trade. (AP)

23: New England Patriots (from Rams) – Texas OT Connor Williams

The Patriots pulled off a very Patriots deal, shipping Brandin Cooks on the verge of a payday to the Rams and getting excellent value in return. They have an obvious need on the line after letting left tackle Nate Solder walk in free agency and would be thrilled to see Williams here at No. 23. Graded by many as the top tackle in the draft, his stock fell a bit when his play dropped after a knee injury his junior year. If he returns to form, the athletic 6-6, 320-pound Williams looks like the prototype NFL tackle.

24: Carolina Panthers – Georgia G Isaiah Wynn

The same problems that have plagued the Panthers for years still reside in Charlotte – protecting Cam Newton and providing him with weapons. They need a cornerback too after Bashaud Breeland’s failed physical, but protecting Newton must be a priority. Wynn played tackle at Georgia, but has the ideal size and skills to play on the inside in the NFL with significant upside.

25: Tennessee Titans – Ohio State DE Sam Hubbard

The Titans need interior defensive help after losing nose tackle Sylvester Williams and linebacker Avery Williamson in the offseason, but their replacements are not here at this point in the draft. The upside of LSU edge rusher Arden Key is appealing with Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan set to hit free agency, but there are questions about his motor and conditioning. Hubbard was a force in the backfield in the Big Ten and a solid choice for depth and the future.

26: Atlanta Falcons – Florida DT Taven Bryan

The Falcons are also looking to bulk up their interior line after losing Dontari Poe. At 290 pounds, Bryant lacks Poe’s mass, but would fit in Dan Quinn’s 4-3 scheme where he could thrive as an athletic pass rusher and slip through the line to attack runners in the backfield.

27: New Orleans Saints – Boston College DE/OLB Harold Landry

The most glaring need for the Saints is tight end after Coby Fleener failed to pan out with just 22 catches last year. But there’s no standout first-rounder here, so Landry makes sense to improve the pass rush. Landry tallied a whopping 16.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss his junior year before falling off to 5.5 and 8.5 as a senior. If he can find that form again, he could be a valuable addition to a team ready to win now.

The Steelers could look to Boise St. LB Leighton Vander Esch to fill the void left by injured linebacker Ryan Shazier. (AP)
The Steelers could look to Boise St. LB Leighton Vander Esch to fill the void left by injured linebacker Ryan Shazier. (AP)

28: Pittsburgh Steelers – Boise St. ILB Leighton Vander Esch

The loss of Ryan Shazier to a spine injury last season creates a void in the middle of the Steelers defense. Vander Esch has the ideal combination of size, speed and range to start at inside linebacker immediately. The Steelers have shown interest, meeting with Vander Esch before his pro day.

29: Jacksonville Jaguars – Texas A&M WR Christian Kirk

After declining to upgrade over Blake Bortles in free agency, it seems unlikely the win-now Jags will address their weakest position here with the premium prospects off the board. That leaves wide receiver as the obvious point of improvement after Jacksonville let Allen Robinson walk in free agency. A likely slot receiver with the ability to make plays after the catch, Kirk could be a much-needed weapon for Bortles.

30: Minnesota Vikings – Oklahoma OT Orlando Brown

The Vikings, coming off a deep run in the playoffs and an aggressive round of free agency have few obvious needs. But with the retirement of Joe Berger, offensive line is a glaring need, making this an easy decision. Mike Remmer can slot into the guard or tackle position, leaving Minnesota the luxury of taking the best lineman prospect here, and Brown is that guy. A 6-8, 350-pound mauler, he isn’t an elite athlete, but his brute strength should translate well on the right side.

31: New England Patriots – LSU CB Donte Jackson

New England addressed the loss of Nate Solder at No. 23 and can build some depth at corner here after letting Malcolm Butler go. Thirty-year-old acquisition Jason McCourty will likely start next season but isn’t the long-term answer. A track star at LSU, Jackson is a burner. He’s undersized at 5-10 and 178 pounds, making him a likely candidate as a nickel back.

32: Philadelphia Eagles – USC RB Ronald Jones II

The Super Bowl champions are obviously not brimming with draft needs and could look to trade down here. If not, running back seems a good fit. The Eagles let LeGarrette Blount go in free agency and don’t have an obvious No. 2 back behind Jay Ajayi. This is a great spot for running back value, and Jones, an explosive runner with game-breaking speed, would provide the Eagles a formidable one-two punch out of the backfield.

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