Despite all the reports and smoke coming from all over the place leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, no one actually knows what will happen. The only thing that is certain: absolute mayhem, but this is my best shot at how things could unfold tonight.
1. CLE: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
I’ve been going back and forth with Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield since yesterday (and I also wouldn’t rule out Sam Darnold), but while all the reports seem to indicate Mayfield is the guy, it’s still all speculation. I know Scot McCloughan loves Mayfield, but John Dorsey is the one making the pick here, and to me, Allen is the total package and a perfect fit in Todd Haley’s offense.
2. NYG: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
If Mayfield ends up going No. 1, Buffalo might offer the farm to move up for Josh Allen—and they could for Sam Darnold in this scenario—but Dave Gettleman has never traded down, and he wants to get a player that will wear a gold jacket here. That’s Barkley. Plus, as much as I loved Christian McCaffrey (my fourth-overall prospect) last season, Gettleman taking him eighth shows that No. 2 isn’t too rich for a generational talent at running back.
3. NYJ: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
New York making the move up from No. 6 to No. 3 obviously meant they are targeting a quarterback, and this could be the best-case scenario for franchise, as I think Option A is Darnold and Option B is Mayfield. Still just 20-years-old, Darnold would be able to learn behind Josh McCown in Jeremy Bates’ system for at least one season.
4. CLE (via HOU): Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
This is where trades could start to come in if the right quarterback falls out of the top three, but I think the Bills are the only team willing to give the draft capital needed to get Cleveland to lose their chance on a blue-chip talent like Bradley Chubb. And I think the Bills would want either Allen or Darnold, so the Browns can stay put and pair Chubb with 2017 first-overall pick Myles Garrett.
5. MIA (mock trade w/ DEN): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
There are plenty of reports suggesting that Denver will definitely take Baker Mayfield if he’s available, but reports are just reports, as it’s silly to think teams reveal their draft boards to media members. Instead, I think we could get an unlikely alliance between Broncos GM John Elway and former Broncos offensive coordinator and current Dolphins head coach Adam Gase. Both Mayfield and Gase are fiery competitors and bright football minds, so Miami is a situation I’d like for the reigning Heisman winner.
6. IND: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
Roquan Smith would have been a great pick if the Colts stayed at No. 3, so adding three second-round picks and still getting the playmaking linebacker is a dream outcome for Indy. Smith and 2017 first-round pick Malik Hooker could dominate for the next decade.
7. TB: Derwin James, S, Florida State
I prefer Minkah Fitzpatrick as a prospect, but Derwin James to the Bucs has destined to happen for a while now, and it might be a better fit. The versatile safety would be an intimidating presence in the secondary and can provide the vocal leadership to compliment Jameis Winston’s same style on the other side of the ball.
8. CHI: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
If Quenton Nelson is the pick for Indianapolis, it could lead to the Bears getting his college teammate Mike McGlinchey, but the bulldozer guard is expected to reunite with Notre Dame position coach Harry Hiestand if he’s on the board. And people aren’t exaggerating when they say Canton could be the final destination of Nelson’s career.
9. SF: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
Picks 6-10 actually seem a little too easy for them not to be completely wrong, but with Rueben Foster seemingly off the hook after his girlfriend recanted her domestic abuse claims yesterday, the Niners might feel comfortable with his long-term outlook in the middle, and Tremaine Edmunds would be an ideal compliment alongside him. If this happens, hopefully the high-character 19-year-old can be a good influence on Foster.
10. OAK: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Oakland’s offensive line is considered a strong point for the team, but left tackle Donald Penn turns 35-years-old tomorrow, so Mike McGlinchey could instantly boost the unit by sliding in at right tackle before kicking over the the blindside for 2019 and hopefully the rest of Derek Carr’s career. This spot could be a trade target for the Packers, too.
11. DEN (mock trade w/ MIA): Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
I think there’s a decent chance Denver sticks with No. 5 and takes Ward there, but they go through all the scenarios a lot more than anyone else, and John Elway might figure either Ward of another blue-chip talent would still be available with a trade down. A trio of Chris Harris Jr., Bradley Roby, and Ward would be as stingy as it gets.
12. BUF (via CIN): Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
As previously stated, I think Buffalo wants either Allen or Darnold, so this would be a bit of a worst-case scenario for GM Brandon Beane if that’s the case. Still, Josh Jackson is a lockdown cornerback that can take the ball away like Tre’Davious White on the other side, so the secondary would be set for years with those two.
13. WAS: Vita Vea, DL, Washington
The Redskins addressed the quarterback position with Alex Smith already, and there’s no reason for them to draft a falling signal-caller here with the veteran coming off arguably the best season of his career. Vita Vea would help fix the run defense for a team that wants to compete for the NFC East—and make a deep playoff run.
14. GB: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
I believe the rumors about Green Bay wanting to move up for an elite prospect, but they might not need to if Minkah Fitzpatrick is their guy. The all-around defensive back would be a great match with fellow Alabama product Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, as both are extremely versatile, do-it-all players.
15. ARI: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Many will want to put Josh Rosen here to end his slide, but I have a difficult time seeing Arizona go after a quarterback in the first round with Larry Fitzgerald gunning for a Super Bowl in what will likely be his final season. If Sam Bradford stays healthy, David Johnson has talked a lot about how explosive their offense can be, and Jaire Alexander would finally give the franchise a shutdown corner opposite Patrick Peterson for Steve Wilks’ defense.
16. BAL: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Ozzie Newsome’s last draft at the helm for Baltimore would have lasting implications if he pulls the trigger on Lamar Jackson here, and their signing of Robert Griffin III could indicate that being the plan. I have Jackson as a top-ten prospect, but this is certainly a bold move with a Super Bowl MVP still on the roster. Would Joe Flacco potentially be a backup plan for the Bills?
17. LAC: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
The best place for Josh Rosen to be Josh Rosen is probably Los Angeles, and while Philip Rivers has some good years left, that in no way should preclude the Chargers from taking any quarterback they have a high grade on that falls in their laps. Personally, I would rather build around the current roster, but Rosen’s slide will end at some point.
18. NE (mock trade w/ SEA): Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
Everyone seems to believe the Patriots might make a big move up for Tom Brady’s successor, but I think the Brandin Cooks trade was all about getting another draft pick to add to the defense, which was torched in Super Bowl LII. Rashaan Evans would bolster the front seven to neutralize opposing rushing attacks.
19. DAL: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported this week that Dallas views Leighton Vander Esch as “Brian Urlacher 2.0”, so I fully expect them to take the Boise State product if he’s still on the board. Not a bad draft slot for a guy that had a graduating high school class of 11 people a few years ago.
20. DET: Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
Detroit has been Patriot-esque under former New England guys Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn, meaning that I have absolutely no idea which direction they will go in. A trade down has been the belief of many, but if they stay put, I doubt Detroit passes on the versatile Da’Ron Payne, as he is a fit in any scheme or alignment Patricia wants to use.
21. CIN (via BUF): James Daniels, C, Iowa
A center is fully expected to be the pick here, and it will probably come down to James Daniels or Frank Ragnow. For me, Daniels’ athleticism gives him the edge as a prospect, and Cincinnati might feel the same way with Joe Mixon’s all-around game ready to be featured this season, which will include a lot of plays to get him the ball in space.
22. BUF (via KC): Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
If Buffalo strikes out on landing one of their targets at quarterback (again, it’s unlikely they have four or five of the top options all worth the No. 12 pick), they could set their sights on Mason Rudolph with their other first-round pick. Rudolph comes from a spread attack at Oklahoma State, but he has the tools and prowess as a play-action passer to develop into the kind of quarterback Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott want.
23. SEA (mock trade w/ NE): Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA
Davenport’s upside could see him come off the board much earlier than this, but Seattle is able to trade back with the Patriots and still get an edge defender with great potential as they look to rebuild the roster. If they trade back to around here like many expect and potentially trade Earl Thomas for the Cowboys’ second-round pick, Pete Carroll’s team could turn things around quickly with Russell Wilson leading them.
24. CAR: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
Cam Newton and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner and Cam Newton should be an interesting combination in Carolina, but the unit is missing a compliment to Devin Funchess at wide receiver. If the Panthers take Calvin Ridley here, they’d have an exciting group of weapons with Ridley, Devin Funchess, Curtis Samuel, Greg Olsen, and Christian McCaffrey.
25. TEN: Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College
Reports suggest the Titans want to move down from here, but I would suggest they might find themselves in a bidding war with the Patriots to move up for Rashaan Evans. If they can’t get that particular prospect to play middle linebacker for Mike Vrabel’s defense, they could turn their attention to the pass rush by taking one of the best pure rushers in the class in Harold Landry.
26. ATL: Will Hernandez, G, UTEP
This could also be Taven Bryan, but Will Hernandez has seemed like a good fit for Atlanta throughout the pre-draft process. The big, bad offensive lineman would open up the running lanes for Devonta Freeman (and Tevin Coleman for at least one more season), which obviously makes things easier for Matt Ryan and the passing game.
27. NO: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State
My comparison for Mike Gesicki is Jimmy Graham, and I think this would be an absolute bargain for New Orleans at this point. Seriously, how does a defense take all of Drew Brees’ weapons away when they get in scoring territory?
28. PIT: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
I mentioned a possible bidding war with the Patriots and Titans for Rashaan Evans, but the Steelers might also be interested in moving up for Ryan Shazier’s potential replacement. If not, Malik Jefferson is the next best option at the position and one of the best players available if Pittsburgh doesn’t take a running back or offensive lineman.
29. BUF (mock trade w/ JAX): Isaiah Wynn, G, Georgia
Because the Bills didn’t move up for a quarterback, they have the draft capital to play with to move up and down the draft if they choose to, and Wynn being here would be a strong finish to a quality Day 1, even if the fans wouldn’t be happy with the haul. Wynn and Dion Dawkins would form a dominant left side of the offensive line.
30. MIN: Frank Ragnow, C, Arkansas
Frank Ragnow is getting a ton of buzz leading up to the draft, and Minnesota’s biggest weakness remains the offensive line, so they should be very happy with Ragnow’s toughness, versatility, and intelligence if he’s the pick. Connor Williams could also be an option if they’d rather have a tackle that can kick inside to guard.
31. NE: Lorenzo Carter, EDGE, Georgia
Again, the Patriots simply couldn’t stop Philly’s offense in the Super Bowl, and over the next three days, I think they want to bolster the defense—which is Bill Belichick’s calling card, after all. Lorenzo Carter could remind the legendary head coach of Hall of Famer Jason Taylor.
32. PHI: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
This is a definite trade back spot (perhaps Kansas City for a cornerback?), but the Eagles have done a ton of work on Derrius Guice, and a trade might put them out of range for him, especially with Cleveland on the clock to begin Day 2.