The NFL Draft is exactly one week away, so teams hopefully have very good idea of what their board is going to look like. For this mock draft, I am going make the selections based on what I would do if I was the GM of every team. There is only one trade, with Cleveland moving up from No. 4 to No. 2 to own the first two picks in the draft. Throwing in a bunch of other trades would get too crazy, though obviously I would want to navigate the board some if I was in control of just one team.
1. CLE: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
I like a few guys as potential franchise quarterbacks in this draft—particularly Josh Allen and Sam Darnold—but for me, they aren’t quite on the level of Marcus Mariota/Andrew Luck/Deshaun Watson as prospects. However, while a running back, Saquon Barkley is on the level of those three as prospects. I will get more into why Barkley is so great next week, but he’s someone that you can build an offense and a franchise around. I don’t care what people say, there wouldn’t be much hesitation to draft a running back as good as Barkley first overall.
2. CLE (via mock trade w/ NYG): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
No matter where you stand on the previous front office of the Browns, the franchise is in a good position to make a move like this. Cleveland would have to send one of their first two second-round picks (No. 33 or No. 35) and a little more to get a deal done according to the draft trade value chart. The majority of people seem to believe Josh Allen isn’t any good, but I would like to know how many of them actually watched him play (probably not many). Allen is a great person with rare ability. He didn’t have a strong supporting cast last year at Wyoming, and his completion percentage isn’t a concern. While he played tougher competition in the SEC, Matthew Stafford had a much better supporting cast in college and was also below 60% completion. I think he turned out just fine in the NFL.
3. NYJ (via IND): Sam Darnold, QB, USC
On the field, I am more concerned about Sam Darnold than Josh Allen. The turnovers are a concern, and it’s a similar concern I had about Jameis Winston coming out of Florida State. However, I feel a little bit better about Darnold’s ability to reign in the turnovers because he seems to be more even-keeled as a person than Winston is, which will hopefully translate to control on the field as he gets experience. Darnold is a big-game performer, and he is apparently an excellent natural leader.
4. NYG (via mock trade w/ CLE): Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
Roquan Smith and Quenton Nelson are both under strong consideration for this pick as the top players on the board, but Bradley Chubb just seems like a perfect fit for the Giants. Honestly, the fact that All-Pro and Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller said Chubb is him and Khalil Mack “put together” gets me really excited about the potential of the NC State defensive end.
5. DEN: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
This year, Roquan Smith might be a guy that goes a lot higher than people anticipate. I think he’s arguably the top prospect behind Saquon Barkley, but he’s not being talked about as a potential top-five pick. The former Georgia linebacker does everything you want from a star, and he can be inserted into the middle of a defense as an anchor for the next decade.
6. IND (via NYJ): Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
The Colts got a ton for moving back three spots, so it’s hard to fault them for the move. Saquon Barkley would be the preferable pick, as pairing him with Andrew Luck would be perfect, but Barkley doesn’t even get out of the top two in this scenario anyway. Indianapolis can just beef up the offensive line with a very safe yet high-potential pick in Quenton Nelson.
7. TB: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
In today’s NFL, Minkah Fitzpatrick is a good fit wherever he goes. He can play man, he can play zone, he can cover good tight ends and slots in the middle of the field, he’s smart, and he’s a very good blitzer. The former Alabama safety was referred to as “Coach Saban’s son” by his college teammates, and I take that as an extreme positive. Tampa Bay needs leaders like Fitzpatrick.
8. CHI: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Cornerback is as deep as I can remember this year, and I believe Jaire Alexander is at the top of the group. In an NFC North that includes Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Kirk Cousins, Chicago needs as many cover guys as they can get. And since Alexander stepped up against the best competition in college, he’s be a good fit going up against those three twice a year.
9. SF: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
This is a tough selection, as the group of players near the top of the board are all very close as prospects and would fill needs for the Niners. I’ll go with who I believe is the top overall player left on the board, despite San Francisco having Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, and Trent Taylor (who might be their preferred slot receiver). Christian Kirk could contribute right away as an explosive playmaker, and he could fill in for Pierre Garcon if the team decides to get out of the veteran’s contract after 2018.
10. OAK: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
The Raiders have a hole at linebacker and if I was them I would be hoping for Roquan Smith to fall to No. 10 (the Niners should hope for him too). Ward is an extremely quick and fast corner with good cover skills, and he is an exceptional tackler at the position—which would help set the tone for Jon Gruden’s team.
11. MIA: Derwin James, S, Florida State
Derwin James can fit in any defensive scheme, but the Dolphins might be the best fit of any team for him. Miami already has a couple of all-around, hard-hitting safeties in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, and James brings the same play style. Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen are fits as accurate passers, but personally I don’t feel comfortable drafting either in the first round.
12. BUF (via CIN): Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Ideally, I would be able to get up into a position to draft Josh Allen, who I think is a perfect fit in Buffalo. But it’s simply not possible if the Browns want him, and the Jets are going to grab the other quarterback I would take early (Sam Darnold) if I was the Bills. Lamar Jackson is an option, but I think the team prefers more of a pocket passer, as indicated by their selection of Nathan Peterman last year. Instead, they take Josh Jackson, who would form a great trio of corners with Tre’Davious White and Vontae Davis.
13. WAS: Vita Vea, DL, Washington
A running back like Nick Chubb or Derrius Guice is an enticing option for the Redskins, but Vita Vea is the pick here. Washington needs a guy that can plug up holes and get up field to rush the passer, and Vea gives them that as an anchor up front in Greg Manusky’s 3-4 defense. Manusky said the team needs to do a better job of stopping the run, and Vea would certainly help with that.
14. GB: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
I would not have cut Jordy Nelson if I was Green Bay, but that’s where we are right now. Calvin Ridley could fill in as a pro-ready receiver that Aaron Rodgers would be able to immediately trust in a receiving corps that already includes Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, and tight end Jimmy Graham. While Ridley is extremely polished as a route runner and knows how to get open, he also has that second gear that will match well with Rodgers’ great deep ball.
15. ARI: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
The Cardinals have Larry Fitzgerald headlining the receiving corps and David Johnson as a beast out of the backfield, but they could use more weapons on offense. At 6’6” with insane leaping ability, Mike Gesicki would immediately help the Cardinals put the ball in the end zone.
16. BAL: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
As an NFL GM, you would hopefully get the opportunity to talk to Lamar Jackson. Before the draft process, I thought he was a definite top-five prospect in this year’s class, but I haven’t heard from him. Clearly, he seems to have a great head on his shoulders, but it just feels like a weird situation with Jackson. Baltimore is a good spot because he won’t be expected to play for at least a year or two.
17. LAC: Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
This is a spot where I would look to trade back, but if not, the Chargers could use more depth up front on offense. Wynn has versatility to play any spot on the offensive line, and he could fill in if any potential injuries occur. The Chargers might seem set across the offensive line for now, but injuries can happen (like last year with Forrest Lamp).
18. SEA: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Tremaine Edmunds is only 19 years old, and he clearly has a ton of potential given his size, athleticism, and versatility. Seattle would be the perfect spot for him, as he could play off-ball linebacker one first and second down before getting after the quarterback as a pass rusher on third down in the Seahawks defense.
19. DAL: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Most of the players near the top of the board for me are running backs, and the Cowboys are obviously set there. The hole left by Dez Bryant must be filled, but my top receiver available (Anthony Miller) might be too similar to their current receivers on the roster. Courtland Sutton seems like the receiver fit here, but I would rather trade back and then select him. Instead, we’ll go with former Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans, who could play right away and would also be great insurance if the oft-injured Sean Lee misses time.
20. DET: Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn
The group of running backs after Saquon Barkley are all very tight, but I think Kerryon Johnson is the best of the bunch. The former Auburn star is an all-around back that can carry the load on offense, but he would be able to start his career in a committee while he adjusts to the speed of the NFL. With his patient Le’Veon Bell-like running style, he might need the time to adjust.
21. CIN (via BUF): James Daniels, C, Iowa
Over the last few years, the Bengals have been trying to beef up their offensive line. Here, I would continue the trend, taking James Daniels and plugging him right in at center. Daniels would make it easier on Andy Dalton, Joe Mixon, and the rest of the offense in 2018 and beyond.
22. BUF (via KC): Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
I considered Leighton Vander Esch much higher than this for a few other teams, and he has a lot of potential as an off-ball linebacker. Sean McDermott loves defense, so he would be happy with this selection. With Josh Jackson and Vander Esch as the top two selections for Buffalo, an already-strong defense could be scary good moving forward.
23. NE (via LAR): Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia
Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill, and Mike Gillislee could get the job done in New England’s backfield, but Nick Chubb would give them a potential workhorse runner. The former Georgia running back has excellent vision between the tackles, and he can convert in short-yardage situations better than most. I believe Chubb can do more as a receiver than he showed in college, so the Patriots are a fit.
24. CAR: Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
Derrius Guice is an option here, but I believe Christian McCaffrey can and will handle the load in Carolina’s backfield. If the coaching staff has other plans, then I would draft Guice as a lead runner while keeping McCaffrey in more of a change-of-pace and receiving role. But I think the Panthers believe McCaffrey is a lead ball-carrier, so Da’Ron Payne is the pick instead. Payne could rotate in on what should be one of the better defensive fronts in 2018.
25. TEN: Lorenzo Carter, EDGE, Georgia
Derrick Morgan and Brian Orakpo are still playing at a high level as outside linebackers for the Titans, but Mike Vrabel and Dean Pees could use a young pass rusher to throw in the mix. Carter could have went as high as Chicago at No. 8, but I didn’t feel comfortable for most of the teams between now and then given defensive schemes. This would be a potential steal for Tennessee.
26. ATL: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis
I believe the Falcons could really use a defined third option behind Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu at receiver, and Anthony Miller would be just that. The former Memphis receiver had outstanding production in college, and he could step right in as a reliable target from both the slot and outside. Miller’s versatility would still allow Atlanta to move Julio Jones around in the formation.
27. NO: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
New Orleans has been adding a lot of pieces on defense, and that continues with Malik Jefferson with this pick. Jefferson gives the Saints a very fast and athletic linebacker that can fly around and make plays for a unit that already plays with a lot of energy. Perhaps some offensive tackles are slightly higher on the board, but it’s close, and the Saints are pretty set at that position.
28. PIT: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
If I were really a member of the Steelers front office, I would have a better idea of what is going on with the Le’Veon Bell situation. But right now, they seem so far apart that it might be hard to keep Bell long-term. I like last year’s third-round pick James Conner and believe he could carry the load for the Steelers, but it doesn’t hurt to add another beast of a runner in Derrius Guice.
29. JAX: Sony Michel, RB, Georgia
The Jaguars just took Leonard Fournette with the fourth pick in last year’s draft, but he was banged up throughout his rookie season and was even suspended for violating team rules after missing the team photo. The explosive Sony Michel would let Fournette know that not even his job is safe—but perhaps more importantly, Michel is a perfect complement to him. Jacksonville wants to run the ball a ton, so there would be plenty of touches to go around for the both of Fournette and Michel.
30. MIN: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
Minnesota has a strong roster with not many holes, but offensive line has probably been the biggest weak spot over the last few years. And since Will Hernandez might be the top player on the board, this selection isn’t too difficult. Hernandez could potentially start right away at one of the guard spots, but at the very least will provide great depth.
31. NE: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
As stated earlier, there are a lot of good corners in this year’s draft, and Isaiah Oliver is among them. With Eric Rowe already holding down the slot, Oliver could eventually play outside opposite Stephon Gilmore in nickel. And with Jason McCourty in New England, there won’t be a huge rush for Oliver to play a ton of snaps.
32. PHI: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
The Eagles are another team that doesn’t have huge holes anywhere on the roster, so I would go with perhaps the best player available in Mike Hughes. The former UCF corner being dismissed from North Carolina earlier in his college career is a concern, but hopefully all that is behind him. Also, the Eagles locker room might be the best spot for Hughes, as he’ll have some good leadership to guide him in the NFL.