With under two weeks until the start of the 2018 NFL draft, it’s hard to tell what to believe and what not to.
The confusion starts at first overall with the Cleveland Browns. They seem to be down to choosing between quarterbacks Josh Allen and Sam Darnold with the first overall pick. But after months of going with Darnold, things change this week.
Here’s this week’s mock draft:
1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
This would not be a smart pick. This would be a very Browns pick. However, as the draft approaches, there are more and more people connecting Allen to the Browns.
There’s been the friend of Browns General Manager John Dorsey saying it. Radio host Dan Patrick has said the Browns like Allen. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, the former scout with deep connections in the league, said “people that know people inside the Browns” think it’s Allen.
At this point, it would be a surprise if this is all just an elaborate smoke screen.
2. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
It’s still hard to get a feel for whether or not Giants General Manager Dave Gettleman will take a quarterback here. His decision would be somewhat less challenging if Darnold is available. The unflappable Southern California quarterback has a history in college and high school of beating the odds and doing the spectacular. He could do the same in New York as Eli Manning’s successor.
3. New York Jets (via Indianapolis Colts): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Jets traded up to the third overall pick to make a big splash. There are few bigger splashes, and headline grabbers, than Mayfield. The only people who would love him more than Jets fans are Jets media members.
4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
If the Browns are down to choosing between Chubb and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley here, all you need to do is look at is the tendencies of Browns General Manager John Dorsey. Firstly, Dorsey has never been fond of taking running backs early. Also consider that in Kansas City, Dorsey took pass rusher Dee Ford in the first round in 2014 despite the fact that Tamba Hali and Justin Houston combined for 22 sacks the prior season. Dorsey could have an even more dominant pass rush group with Chubb, Myles Garrett and the under-appreciated Emmanuel Ogbah.
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
There is some thought that the Broncos could try to continue developing former first-round pick Paxton Lynch, and instead of going for a quarterback could look at Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson or Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward. But if Rosen is still there, he would be hard to pass up. If there’s one person who can relate to Rosen’s brash confidence, it is Broncos head man John Elway.
6. Indianapolis Colts (via New York Jets): Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
Choosing between Nelson and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is a tough ask for Colts General Manager Chris Ballard. Guards Jack Mewhort and Matt Slauson are only on one-year deals, and Nelson is simply better than the both of them. Adding Nelson could go a long way in keeping Andrew Luck upright, and making the Colts relevant again.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
Lasting until the seventh pick may seem like a drop for Barkley considering he could go as high as second overall. But the positional devaluing at running back and the general depth this year could lead it to happening. If so, the Buccaneers shouldn’t hesitate to take him. He’s a player who can transform Tampa’s offense, and take a huge amount of pressure off quarterback Jameis Winston.
8. Chicago Bears: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Bears need playmakers on defense, and there are few better in this draft than Edmunds. Whether he ends up playing on the outside or the inside, he’ll make plays for Chicago. If Edmunds isn’t picked at No. 8, he almost assuredly will not slide out of the top 10.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Who knows if Reuben Foster will ever play again for the 49ers. If San Francisco fears he’ll be in prison following a litany of charges, including domestic violence, linebacker goes from being a late-round depth need to a first round starter need. Smith would be the perfect replacement. A smart and speedy linebacker, Smith is one of the most dynamic players in this year’s draft.
10. Oakland Raiders: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
Although the Raiders have signed four cornerbacks and two safeties, they still could use a player like Fitzpatrick. He can be lined up in the slot and in deep coverage. Fitzpatrick has great awareness and the top athleticism to take advantage of it.
11. Miami Dolphins: Derwin James, S, Florida State
With Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, the Dolphins don’t necessarily need a safety. However, James is much more than just a single-position player. Miami can play James as a slot corner, as a roving linebacker and even as an edge rusher.
12. Buffalo Bills (via Cincinnati Bengals): Isaiah Wynn, OT/G, Georgia
If the Bills have a hard time trading up inside the top five for a quarterback, the 12th pick is difficult to figure out. Do they reach on quarterback Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State? If Louisville’s Lamar Jackson the choice? If they don’t like either at No. 12, the Bills could look to replace the recently retired Richie Incognito with Wynn, a player who works at guard and tackle.
13. Washington: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Some picks every year just feel locked in. Last year, Gareon Conley was locked in pretty early to the Raiders and it happened. This year that pairing seems to be Vea to Washington. Don’t let Vea’s 347-pound frame fool you. He has quick feet and good movement skill for a big defensive lineman.
14. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
If Ward happens to be available when the Packers pick, he is an easy selection. Ward’s draft range starts No. 4 and absolutely should stop here. Ward is an instinctual corner who doesn’t mind mixing it up with bigger receivers on the outside. Whether it’s a big receiver like Allen Robinson of the Bears or a more quick target like Stefon Diggs of the Vikings, Ward should be able to more than hold his own.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
This pick, to me, just makes more sense than someone like Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley or a defensive lineman. Although Jackson has to continue getting better from the pocket, the potential is there for him to be a franchise NFL quarterback.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
There is a ton of depth at wide receiver this year, and that could lead the Ravens to look in a different direction in the first round. If so, McGlinchey would be a smart choice. He would give the Ravens a pair of bookends on the line. In the second round, players like Michael Gallup of Colorado State or Anthony Miller of Memphis would be smart choices.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
Offensive or defensive linemen are often the popular choice for the Chargers, but they badly need a middle linebacker. Vander Esch is a stellar athlete that could patrol sideline to sideline as the Chargers’ three-man line in front of him eats up blockers.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Marcus Davenport, Edge, UTSA
Seattle lost Michael Bennett and Sheldon Richardson already, and Cliff Avril isn’t expected back either. Other than Frank Clark, the Seahawks don’t have a lot of players who can pressure the quarterback. That’s where Davenport could come into play. Davenport is a good athlete with impressive size. From a physical standpoint alone, he fits in Seattle.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
If teams are down on Ridley because of his slight 189-pound frame, the Cowboys could be the benefactor. After releasing Dez Bryant, Dallas now has a big need at wide receiver. Ridley could step directly into the lead receiver spot and should produce consistently with Dak Prescott throwing him the ball.
20. Detroit Lions: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
Hurst being available is the ideal draft night scenario for the Lions. He’s a Grady Jarrett clone with his ability to split gaps and create havoc up the middle.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (via Buffalo Bills): James Daniels, C, Iowa
Center is overwhelmingly Cincinnati’s biggest need, so players like Daniels, Frank Ragnow of Arkansas and Billy Price of Ohio State all make sense. If Price didn’t tear his left pectoral muscle at the NFL Scouting Combine, he may have been the choice. Instead, it’s Daniels, a top athlete and good technician for a center.
22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
At every stage of the process, from the Senior Bowl to pre-draft visits, the Bills have shown an interest in Rudolph. The thing about Rudolph is that you have to teach some of the Oklahoma State system out of him because the routes they run just don’t always translate to the NFL. But if he can be coached up properly by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, the physical gifts are there.
23. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams): Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
Part of me wonders if Ward does slide a little if the Patriots will package their two first-round picks to go up and get him. If pick Nos. 23 and 31 is enough to get the Patriots to, say, the No. 9 pick it’s something Bill Belichick should consider. If New England holds off and keeps both first-round picks, Hughes is somewhat similar to Ward. He’s a good athlete who doesn’t mind being physical.
24. Carolina Panthers: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland
The Panthers brought Moore in for a visit recently, and it’s understandable why they would. Devin Funchess is a solid player, and Christian McCaffrey adds a lot to the passing game, but neither is a lead target. Moore, who is like a slightly bigger version of Stefon Diggs, can be the No. 1 receiver Cam Newton needs.
25. Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, Edge, Boston College
Landry slid a little bit in this week’s mock draft. That’s good news for the Titans, who could use him to help pressure the quarterback along with veterans Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan. They’re starting to wind down their time in Tennessee and Landry can be the pass rusher of the future for the Titans.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
After Bryan there is a dramatic drop off in interior defensive linemen who can penetrate gaps and create pressure. If the Falcons think there’s a chance he and Hurst will be gone by No. 26 they could look to move up a little bit.
27. New Orleans Saints: Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
The Saints have spent big on the defense this offseason, signing linebacker Demario Davis and cornerback Patrick Robinson to a combined $44 million. New Orleans still needs a defensive lineman, though. If they wait to take a tight end, the Saints could take the best available tackle or end. In this case, it’s Payne over Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard. Payne is a top run stopper, and New Orleans finished 17th in the league in run defense last season.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Although the Steelers signed Jon Bostic to a two-year contract, he’s never really been a starter-quality player in the NFL. With Ryan Shazier out for the season, Evans could come in and start next to Vince Williams.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
The Jaguars may have made Andrew Norwell the highest paid guard in the NFL, but they could still use a guard on the right side of the offensive line. What better way to help former fourth overall pick Leonard Fournette in the run game than giving him two new guards to run behind?
30. Minnesota Vikings: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Hernandez would’ve been the choice for the Vikings if he were available. After him, the next offensive lineman off the board could be Connor Williams of Texas. He’s a little inconsistent, though, and the Vikings need a player who can provide an impact early. That could be Jackson, a playmaking cornerback who has size and speed.
31. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
This fit just seems way too natural. The Patriots lost a big, athletic left tackle in Nate Solder and can draft a big, athletic left tackle in Miller. The UCLA product needs some work, but line coach Dante Scarnecchia could get the best out of him.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Philadelphia lost Patrick Robinson in free agency, and could add a player similar to him in Alexander. Although he missed some time last season due to injury, Alexander has first-round talent. He’s good at making a play on the ball, and shows good body control to go up and make a play.