The NFL Draft is just over a week away and as excitement builds here’s my first and only attempt at a first round mock draft, with five trades thrown in just for fun!
1.Cleveland Browns- Sam Darnold, QB, USC
The Josh Allen buzz is gaining traction but the Browns surely can’t do it to themselves. Darnold is more risky than some draftniks would have you believe, but he is the clean cut golden boy who in theory should solve the Browns biggest problem.
2.*TRADE* Buffalo Bills (from Giants via Colts) – Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
Let’s run with the three-way trade idea suggested by Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks on Path to the Draft. The Bills switch with the Colts pre-draft and all but guarantee themselves one of the top 4 QB’s. Then on draft night they move up to pick 2, which the Giants are happy to move out of and stay in the top 10. The Colts get more picks in what is a major rebuild, the Giants move down 3 spots and probably get pick 22 for their trouble. And the Bills trade the house for boom-or-bust signal-caller Allen.
3.New York Jets – Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Jets moved early to secure a crack at ‘their guy’. Seeing Darnold and Allen go off most people’s board 1-2 I believe the Jets have made themselves buy in to Mayfield. He has the charisma for the New York market and the opportunity to develop behind veterans Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown.
4.*TRADE* Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Cleveland Browns) – Saquon Barkley, HB, Penn State
The Browns take advantage of QBs going early and decide to shift back knowing there is plenty of talent available. The Bucs thought they were close to having a playoff squad last year, but losing Doug Martin derailed things. Barkley has the potential to be a game-changer and be the missing piece in Tampa.
5. Denver Broncos – Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
The Broncos were at their best with DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller tag-teaming. Chubb comes in and helps boost a defense that feels like it is sliding backwards. A pass rush rotation of Chubb, Shane Ray and Miller will be the envy of the league.
6. New York Giants (from Colts via Bills) – Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Giants knew that a top non-QB prospect would be available after moving back. If Dave Gettleman believes Eli Manning can be successful for another couple of years then he will need much better protection. Nelson goes some way to revamping what has been a pretty awful position group.
7. Cleveland Browns (from Buccaneers) – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
Since the Justin Gilbert miss, the Browns have failed to address the cornerback position effectively. If you are in desperate need for a shutdown corner, where do you turn? Well history tells you Ohio State, the Browns hope Ward can match the productivity of last year’s OSU graduate Marshon Lattimore.
8. Chicago Bears – Mike McGlinchey, T, Notre Dame
The draft’s first shock, McGlinchey going top 10 would be a major surprise with the talent still available. The reasoning, tackles always get overdrafted and McGlinchey despite not being spectacular should make a solid foundation piece for a Bears offense that needs to protect their young QB.
9. *TRADE* Arizona Cardinals (from 49ers) – Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
John Lynch is a wheeler-dealer. He trades back here for a good haul knowing three potential Reuben Foster replacements remain in play. The Cards’ simply can’t put their eggs into Sam Bradford’s basket. Rosen is pro-ready and can help this team if Bradford cannot overcome his constant injury problems. Although trading with a divisional rival is unusual if the size of the deal was big enough I am sure Lynch would be open minded and make the move.
10. Oakland Raiders – Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama
Fitzpatrick is all about football, the kind of guy Jon Gruden should love. He is a chess piece in the secondary and can fill a number of roles. Whether he ends up an outside corner or Reggie Nelson’s long term successor at free safety, he adds to a young and talented defense, the sort that could go far in 2018/19.
11. Miami Dolphins – Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Smith is a heat-seeking missile. Undersized but ultra-athletic, he will get compared to Tremaine Edmunds throughout the process but he is nearer the finished product. He gives the Dolphins a defensive leader to rebuild around.
12. Indianapolis Colts (from Bills) – Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Colts make use of their first of a bevvy of picks. Edmunds has huge potential and can play as an edge rusher or an off the ball linebacker. He adds a spark to a defensive unit that lacks identity.
13. Washington Redskins – Derwin James, S, Florida State
A simple case of best player available. James slides a bit from where some expect him to go but the Redskins would surely love to grab a tone-setter to match with some talented youngsters they have in their secondary.
14. *TRADE* Dallas Cowboys (from Packers) – Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Another trade, the Cowboys have a major need at wide receiver and know they need to get ahead of the 49ers and Ravens to get the no.1 guy. Ridley is a clean route runner and despite a lack of size should be an effective receiver at the next level. Paired with Allen Hurns he gives Dak Prescott a more explosive option than predecessor Dez Bryant.
15. San Francisco 49ers (from Cardinals) – Leighton vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The 49ers traded back knowing there would likely be a good corner or linebacker available at this spot. Vander Esch has risen up boards due to his athleticism, he is a grinder that Lynch should love. He comes in immediately as Reuben Foster’s replacement.
16. Baltimore Ravens – Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
One year the Ravens’ inability to provide a pass rush outside of Terrell Suggs is going to catch up with them. By taking Landry they should help to avoid any drop off. Landry fits a 3-4 defense nicely and should have an immediate impact.
17. LA Chargers – Vita Vea, DT, Washington
The Chargers lack power down the middle on defense. Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram provide the outside rush but imagine putting the space-eating Vea in the mix. He is much more than a 2-down guy, offering interior pass rush ability in obvious passing downs.
18. Seattle Seahawks – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
The Seahawks released the key piece of the Legion of Boom, Richard Sherman, in the offseason. Jackson is a turnover machine and is built in the mould of a Seahawks corner. He steps in straight away to begin the secondary rebuild.
19. Green Bay Packers – Derrius Guice, HB, LSU
The Packers need to take the emphasis off Aaron Rodgers and the passing attack. The best way to do this is to enhance the running game. Guice can be an every-down back and be the hard-nosed grinder that Green Bay fans will love.
20. Detroit Lions – Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
Pass rush options are relatively low in this draft which should force Davenport up boards. He is raw but flashes huge upside. Ziggy Ansah was underwhelming last year but by adding Davenport it should prevent opposition defenses prioritising Ansah and free him up. The pairing has the potential to be devastating.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
The Bengals place great importance on positional value. They take Wynn here because he has the potential to be a starting tackle or guard. Although undersized for the outside it didn’t hinder him in college. Should Wynn not cut it at tackle the Bengals get the best guard in the class to reinforce the line.
22. New York Giants (from Bills) – Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
Eli Apple’s struggles were well documented last year and the Giants use their second first round pick to grab another top corner. Hughes is inexperienced but can learn his trade in the slot while the Giants work out if Apple is worth persisting with. If Apple performs they have a strong secondary, if not, they have a ready made replacement.
23. New England Patriots- Maurice Hurst Jr, DT, Michigan
Bill Belichick loves rotating his defensive front so don’t discount a defensive tackle just because they have brought in Danny Shelton. Hurst offers great value at this point and gives the bend-don’t-break defense a more attacking feel.
24. Carolina Panthers – DJ Moore, WR, Maryland
The Panthers are lacking a dynamic playmaker at the wide receiver position. They have a target man in Devin Funchess and deep threat in Torrey Smith. DJ Moore adds another dimension, he is a swiss army knife that can become Cam Newton’s new favourite target.
25. Tennessee Titans – Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
Hernandez is possibly the most aggressive offensive lineman in this draft. He is downright nasty. Add him into the mix of Jack Conklin and Taylor Lewan and the Titans have an offensive line which can allow Marcus Mariota to be at his creative best.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
The Falcons have a strong squad and adding Payne to the defensive front keeps them fresh. Payne can do most things asked of him across the line, equally adept at forcing interior pass rush as he is stuffing the run.
27. New Orleans Saints – Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State
It is tempting for the Saints to jump at getting Lamar Jackson as the long term replacement to Drew Brees but they have to be in win-now mode after going so close last year. Goedert is a quality pass-catching tight end who is an upgrade over Ben Watson, he gives Brees a red zone target he hasn’t had since Jimmy Graham.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Evans looks a ready made Steeler, he can come in straight away and help ease the burden of losing Ryan Shazier. Evans can fly downhill into the tackle but has coverage ability as well. His physical nature fits what the Steelers are looking for.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars – Taven Bryan, DT, Florida
Bryan has risen up draft boards in the pre-draft process and despite not being the finished article could thrive for the Jaguars. With plenty of help on the edge and Malik Jackson already in place, Bryan can learn the ropes and also get plenty of space to have an early impact on the league.
30. Minnesota Vikings – James Daniels, C, Iowa
Daniels is the top center in this year’s draft and would be the highest ranked interior lineman still available at this point. Although Connor Williams could also be in play, Daniels is more mobile and a more effective blocker. The Vikings can shift Pat Elflein across or use Daniels’ versatility and slot him in at guard.
31. New England Patriots – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
If the Pats stay true to their board then Alexander stands a good chance of being the pick if he is still available. Alexander isn’t the finished product but flashes bags of potential. He steps in straight away and fills the void of Malcolm Butler, being able to play nickel or outside.
32. *TRADE* Indianapolis Colts (from Philadelphia Eagles) – Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The Eagles have no major concerns so are happy to move back. Chris Ballard uses the additional capital he has gained and moves back into the first to take Lamar Jackson. The concerns surrounding Andrew Luck are real and his career length now has to be a legitimate consideration. Jackson has incredible potential and by moving up the Colts have him for five years.