Mock Draft Mondays: Version 2.0
Every Monday, a member of staff here at Gridiron Experts will be producing a mock draft for your enjoyment. Sam Matthews wrote the first edition of this feature last week, and this week, Joe Hulbert will be bringing you his mock draft.
1. Sam Darnold, QB, USC
It is hardly a hot take to suggest the Browns need to take a quarterback, and in Sam Darnold, they grab the best all-around thrower in this draft. If the Browns can get a bridge QB in free agency such as AJ McCarron, this is the best case scenario for Darnold, as he needs to improve his decision making before he steps into the NFL. Josh Rosen is also an option here, but he has the type of personality that experienced scouts such as John Dorsey, and Scot McCloughan will want to avoid.
2. Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
New York Giants
I am in the minority of people that think Eli Manning still has a lot to offer in the NFL as he has been freed from the shackles of Ben McAdoo, but the Giants should still attempt to draft his replacement. Josh Rosen’s deep ball needs a lot of work, but mechanically, he is the most sound QB in the class, and he could easily be a day one starter for at least five or six other franchises. Sitting behind Manning, however, may do him a world of good.
3. Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama
The Indianapolis Colts are expected to switch to a 4-3 defense this year, but in honesty, scheme changes won’t matter unless they bolster their secondary. They have a few nice pieces on the defense such as Malik Hooker and Quincy Wilson, but adding a versatile chess piece such as Minkah Fitzpatrick could help generate sacks up front. The Colts new DC Matt Eberflus struggled with a lack of pass rushers in Dallas, but he coached the secondary, and the creativity of he and Rod Marinelli helped create sacks up front. Fitzpatrick can play a variety of roles, and this addition would give the Colts the league’s most exciting secondary.
4. Bradley Chubb, EDGE, N.C State
The Cleveland Browns could go in any direction with their fourth pick, but taking an edge rusher makes a great deal of sense, as the Browns need to find someone on the outside to take advantage of the space created by Danny Shelton and Larry Ogunjobi. Chubb could get ten sacks in his rookie year, and along with Myles Garrett, he gives the Browns a potent pass rush to mask their deficient secondary.
5. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
This selection by the Denver Broncos is on the assumption that they manage to sign Kirk Cousins in free agency, and I don’t think John Elway would pass on an exciting skill player such as Saquon Barkley.
Kirk Cousins is at his best in the play-action game, and as promising as CJ Anderson can be, Barkley is a generational talent who cannot be passed on. Denver would win the off-season if they managed to pair Barkley with Cousins.
6. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
New York Jets
The New York Jets underwent a fun yet, utterly pointless campaign in 2017, where they won games which only hurt their draft position. However, the one long-term positive was the play of Josh McCown, as his presence and level of performance means that the Jets don’t have to take a QB with the intention of starting them on day one. Baker Mayfield has the type of attitude that can either transform or break an NFL franchise. The Jets have not had a good QB for over 20 years, and Mayfield is the type of selection that would increase their ticket sales, and fill their fans with some hope.
7. Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers need to build from the trenches, and if Quenton Nelson fell into their lap, they would be major winners. Nelson is an absolute bully who would be a game changer for their run game, which looked very mediocre in 2017. Dirk Koetter likes to establish the run game more than most coaches in the NFL, so they need to add someone next to Ali Marpet if he does indeed remain in Tampa Bay.
8. Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The Bears roster might be the most underrated in the NFL, but they clearly need multiple pass catchers to pair with Mitchell Trubisky and Jordan Howard. Cameron Meredith’s return and Adam Shaheen’s late-season play must not be undervalued, but adding someone such as Calvin Ridley will give incoming Head Coach Matt Nagy something to work with. Ridley is the type of wideout who could run seven or eight routes very well, and this versatility is needed in Chicago.
9. Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers pass defense was an embarrassment in 2017, and they really need to add some quality cornerback play. Josh Jackson is an aggressive corner who sometimes leaves himself exposed, but the 49ers defense needs to add a corner who takes risks, as they do not yet have the personnel to run a conservative defense in the mold of the Seattle Seahawks.
10. Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
The Oakland Raiders linebacking corps is possibly the worst unit in the NFL, so adding a talent such as Roquan Smith could go a long way to helping them out. The Raiders have managed to put together a decent pass rush and secondary under Reggie McKenzie, but adding a linebacker could make this defense good for the first time in many years. Smith can cover, and he is great at run defense and reminds me of a slightly faster version of Bobby Wagner.
11. Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Dolphins front office has opted to make ‘high floor’ style picks in the past couple of drafts, so Denzel Ward makes a lot of sense here. The Dolphins defense was inconsistent throughout the 2017 season, and a major reason for this was the inconsistent play of their cornerbacks. Ward might be the best corner in this draft class, and his versatility means Matt Burke has someone he can stick on WR1s.
12. Derwin James, S, Florida State
The Bengals have a lot of needs as they have decided to let all of their talent walk in the last three free agency classes, and this means they will go best player available. Derwin James would have likely been a top-five pick in the 2017 draft, but due to a down year from Florida State, he has started to slide down draft boards. The Bengals defense has not been the same since Reggie Nelson joined the Raiders, so this draft pick could fix a lot of their problems. The offensive line is a clear need for the Bengals, but Marvin Lewis doesn’t pass on defensive players.
13. Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
The Redskins could get away with a below average run game with Kirk Cousins under center, but due to their bizarre downgrade, they need to improve this area immediately. Running back Derrius Guice was unlucky to be buried on an LSU team that was going nowhere, but he is the type of runner whose aggressive style contrasts with Alex Smith’s more vanilla style of play.
The Redskins roster, in my opinion, is honestly not that far off from competing at a high level again. They just had an unholy amount of injuries last year, so this selection would not be a poor value one.
14. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Green Bay Packers
The Packers need to accept that Clay Matthews is not the player he once was, and the first way to signal a new era would be to spend a high pick on a linebacker in the form of Tremaine Edmunds. The Packers generally do not select linebackers high, but they may make an exception for a versatile talent such as Edmunds, who would be able to play a variety of roles in their new look defense.
15. Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The Arizona Cardinals are a team who will likely trade up for a quarterback, but in this scenario, an ultra-talented yet flawed QB falls to them in the form of Josh Allen. After the 2017 draft, draft writer Matt Miller said that Josh Allen would be the number one pick in the 2018 draft, but due to a poor season, he now grades as a mid-round prospect. The Cardinals are likely going to chase a bridge QB, which means Allen can sit and work on his decision making and mechanics with Mike McCoy.
16. Connor Williams, OT, Texas
The Ravens need pass catchers, but the Ozzie Newsome way has always been to try and solve these issues in free agency, and I believe he will continue to try this. It is for this reason, that I believe they will bolster their offensive selection with Connor Williams, who is most probably the most talented tackle in the draft class. Ronnie Stanley has shown promise, but adding Williams could potentially reignite the worst offense in the League.
17. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Los Angeles Chargers
If the Chargers had a league average kicker in 2017, they would have won their division, so this is not a franchise that needs to reach drastically for ‘need’ picks. Instead, Tom Telesco may look to spend his first round pick on a luxury player such as Maurice Hurst, who would be able to wreak havoc on the interior due to his natural strength, and the fact Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram dominate the edges.
18. Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
The Seahawks will almost certainly trade down, but if they don’t, then offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn is the obvious pick. Wynn projects as a guard at the next level, which is good for Seattle as their guard play was abysmal in 2017. Germain Ifedi will probably move inside this year, meaning Wynn would be the starting left guard in 2018 for Seattle.
19. Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The only reason the Cowboys horrendous receiving corps doesn’t get more attention is because their run game masks it, but the Cowboys need playmakers desperately, and Christian Kirk fills a need at good value here. Kirk reminds me of Kenny Stills, a player who can open a playbook by just running two routes. Dallas desperately need some form of a deep threat, and Christian Kirk could help this offense become a little less predictable.
20. Ronald Jones II, RB, USC
The Lions need to give up on Ameer Abdullah as he is never healthy, and he is not a great goal-line back, and it is time for them to use a high pick on a running back in Ronald Jones II. They flirted with the idea of drafting Joe Mixon last year, so the intent from Bob Quinn and the Lions front office is there. Jones doesn’t get as much credit as the other running backs, but in honesty, his ability to make plays in tight spaces is the best in this class, and he could help take some load off the back of Matthew Stafford.
21. Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Bills front office doesn’t have a large body of work yet, which makes it difficult to project what they might do, but Vita Vea seems to be a safe pick. The Bills defense was better than the sum of its parts in 2017, but they do need to find a way of adding some interior pressure if they want to run Sean McDermott’s scheme, which rarely blitzes. Vea is a good pass rusher but his solidity against the run fits McDermott’s philosophy, which wants to force people to pass as much as possible.
22. Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Buffalo Bills are more desperate for an offensive revolution than any other team, so adding a boundary wide receiver such as Courtland Sutton could do them a lot of good. Sutton is raw, but in my opinion, he has the highest ceiling of any wideout in this year’s NFL draft class.
The quarterback of the future is a huge question mark in Buffalo, but they will likely try their luck in free agency, as opposed to the draft.
23. Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams offensive line was a real surprise package in the 2017 season, but they will still look to upgrade it, and Mike McGlinchey would be a steal at this point in the draft. Andrew Whitworth will not play forever, and Rob Havenstein has some struggles in pass protection. McGlinchey has solid mechanics and would likely become a starter towards the back end of the 2018 season.
24. Billy Price, G/C, Ohio State
The Panthers have one of the more complete rosters in the NFL, so they will opt for the best player available strategy. Billy Price projects as a center, but I believe he could make the move to guard in a similar fashion to the way Ethan Pocic did with the Seattle Seahawks. Andrew Norwell is an impending free agent, and it has been reported by Chad Forbes that the New York Giants have serious interest in him. Price would likely be the day one starter for Carolina at left guard.
25. Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
The Titans have put a lot of emphasis on running the ball in the time Jon Robinson has been their General Manager, so alarm bells will be ringing due to the fact that Josh Kline and Quinton Spain are both free agents. Will Hernandez is a perfect fit in their blocking scheme, and his ability to open up running lanes means that a Derrick Henry breakout would be almost instantaneous if the Titans made this selection.
26. Braden Smith, OG, Auburn
The Atlanta Falcons offense in 2016 was built on the outside zone run game, and although many blame Steve Sarkisian for the fact the Falcons offense took a nose dive, it was largely because of poor guard play. Braden Smith is a dominant all-around guard who could help open up running lanes for Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, which will re-restore the play-action game in Atlanta. Many NFL teams really undervalue the guard position, but the Falcons need to try and restore their dominant run game, as Matt Ryan has proven that if the ball is in his hands too much, he will not be able to get his team over the line.
27. Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
New Orleans Saints
Rashaan Evans is arguably a top ten player in this draft class, but teams really undervalue the linebacker position, even though the majority of the great NFL defenses have an all-pro linebacker on their roster. The Saints wanted to take Reuben Foster last year but were uprooted by San Francisco, so it would not be surprising to see this Jeff Ireland led front office attempt to take another early-round linebacker.
28. Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
The Steelers defense has taken an unfortunate hit due to the potential career-ending injury suffered by Ryan Shazier, so they need to add a linebacker to their ranks. Malik Jefferson is a solid all-around player who would be able to blitz up the middle, which is something that is required in the Steelers scheme. His solidity against the run and general consistency could be huge for the Steelers, as the defense, on the whole, is horribly up and down.
29. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The Jacksonville Jaguars appear to be sticking with Blake Bortles, but it would not surprise me if they still took a first-round quarterback. Many like Mason Rudolph here, but I am not a fan, and think Lamar Jackson is a much better player. Blake Bortles was not good in 2017, he just happened to stumble onto an elite defense and an elite running back, and Lamar Jackson’s ability as a runner alone makes him a more valuable signal caller, especially in Nathaniel Hackett’s system which uses a lot of college concepts.
30. Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn
The Vikings defense is elite, but they have a liability in Trae Waynes, and a real question mark in the aging Terence Newman, which means they need to invest another pick in a cornerback. Carlton Davis does not look like the most physically dominant cornerback in comparison to others in this class, but he is excellent in run support and competes on every snap, which Mike Zimmer will appreciate.
31. Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
New England Patriots
The Patriots defense was exposed on an embarrassing level in the Super Bowl, and they desperately need to add an edge rusher in the early rounds of the draft. Harold Landry is a really divisive prospect, but I am of the opinion that he is a great, not good prospect. His burst is excellent, and he has natural talent that no coach can teach. If Bill Belichick can get hold of him, then the Pats might finally have an edge rusher, which they need if they are to modernize their unit, which still prioritizes setting the edge over getting sacks. For a great overview of Harold Landry, check out this piece from Jon Ledyard.
32. Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
The Eagles were rocked by a bad injury to Jason Peters towards the end of the 2017 season, so they will likely look to bolster the offensive tackle position. Orlando Brown is considered a top 20 prospect by many, but I believe he is far too raw to be drafted this high. Luckily for the Eagles, they have a great offensive line coaching staff in place, and a potential swing tackle to hold down the reins for a few weeks in Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Brown is the type of high risk high reward pick you can make when you are a Super Bowl champion.
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