2018 NFL Draft: Mock Draft Version 3.0
Dom Murtha breaks down the NFL draft one last time for all 32 first-round picks prior to the draft tonight.
It’s finally here!
As I said in my last article, Draft Day is always bittersweet for me because while I’m ecstatic for the best day on the football calendar, I also have to wait another 365 days for it to come again. Without exaggeration, it’s very similar to that feeling after you open your presents on Christmas morning, or that final time you hear “Augusta” (the theme to the Masters) and Jim Nantz’ voice closing out the CBS telecast on Sunday.
While it can bring depression, it’s only because I love the event so much. Cannot feel the lows without great highs… Anyway, with all of the emotional stuff out of the way, enjoy (or rip to shreds) my final mock draft of the year.
I’ll be following this up with complete first round coverage (live; pick-by-pick analysis) right here on fantasyalarm.com, while after the conclusion of the Thursday festivities, Brett Talley and I will be wrapping everything up with a podcast. Throughout the day the rest of the FA team will be throwing tons of live streams and radio coverage goodies at you, so take it all in…
Happy Draft Day everyone...
1: Cleveland Browns | Josh Allen | QB | Wyoming |
Boy, has this been a wild ride or what? Up until the day before the draft I have had Sam Darnold slotted in as the Browns number one pick. But who am I to go against several reports? It seems as though the Browns have narrowed down this pick to two players – Allen and Mayfield – leaving the best quarterback out of the equation. While I have always had a feeling that Allen could be the pick, it was only because I thought that it would be the most Browns move ever. By that I mean that they WOULD have their pick of the litter and still somehow take the one that is sure to bust. I may look back at this years from now and get embarrassed, but my instincts for breaking down football tape and simple statistics back me up… Sure Allen is huge, athletic, and can throw the ball from goal line to goal line, but in his recorded football career – dating all the way back to JV in high school – he has never completed 60% of his passes. He also struggled to compile any respectable stats in college despite playing far inferior competition in the FCS. Regardless, this is not my draft; it’s how I think each team will draft.
2: New York Giants | Sam Darnold | QB | USC |
Reports have it that the pick here is between Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and N.C. State defensive end Bradley Chubb… Unless of course Sam Darnold somehow isn’t the number one pick. In this scenario, the Browns inexplicably pass on the top quarterback, gifting the Giants their heir apparent to Eli Manning.
For those Giants fans not pleased and that are clamoring for the star running back here, understand that this move is playing the long game and is the move that has to be made to secure the future of the franchise for the next decade-plus. Picking a running back here unnecessarily inflates the salary cap at the position for the next five years at minimum (running backs picked this high make almost as much as top veteran running backs), while a quarterback at this bracketed price would be a bargain. Eli Manning is 37 and hasn’t been good statistically (or on tape for that matter) for the last three years at minimum. His replacement is needed and the Giants shouldn’t plan on picking this high again anytime soon. Eli – the future Hall of Famer that he is – should have a lot of wisdom to bestow upon the mere 20-year-old Sam Darnold. This may prove to be the best pick of the draft when all is said and done.
3: New York Jets (via Colts) | Baker Mayfield | QB | Oklahoma |
After moving up from 6th to 3rd, it’s no secret that the Jets are looking for a quarterback. It’s now just a matter of which one falls to them and which one they like best. While Josh Rosen is the best player available at the position, his conflicting political views with the organization (owner Woody Johnson is currently serving as UK ambassador for Donald Trump) likely takes him out of consideration. Beyond that point on Rosen, I also haven’t really heard any buzz connecting the two parties. Contrarily, Baker Mayfield has been my pick to the Jets since I started this mock drafting process back during Super Bowl week. The organization seems to love him and so will The New York Post… “Broadway Baker” anyone??
4: Cleveland Browns (via Texans) | Bradley Chubb | DE | N.C. State |
While I hate their first pick, I love their second one. Chubb paired across from Myles Garrett will give the Browns the best DE duo in the NFL, without much argument.
Again… I know that people would love to see Saquon Barkley come off the board, but not only do the Browns have a rather crowded running back depth chart, they also have several other top tier selections in this draft that can be used on an almost equally talented one later on. Keep in mind that there are a host of great backs in this draft people.
5: Arizona Cardinals (via Broncos) | Josh Rosen | QB | UCLA |
TRADE PREDICTION: Cardinals acquire 5th and 160th overall picks; Broncos acquire 15th, 47th, 134th overall, and a future 1st
As is tradition when trading up for a quarterback, the Cardinals had to overpay a bit here, but as also is tradition, it’s a risk that they have to take. Rosen is my number two rated quarterback in this draft and quite frankly could easily be my number one depending on how the wind is blowing tomorrow. While some question his respect for coaches and teammates and his outspoken nature, from all interviews I have heard, he simply sounds like one of the most honest and inquisitive athletes of recent memory. I think the media has him all wrong. Like Rory McIlroy in golf, Rosen never dodges a question and seems to be genuine in every response. He also displays an uncanny thirst for knowledge that should get him very far in this league. With all of that being said, he also shows very few flaws on tape, which should make this a slam dunk pick for Arizona. Fingers crossed that he can stay healthy though, as his injury history is my only concern going forward.
6: Indianapolis Colts (via Jets) | Saquon Barkley | RB | Penn State |
Finally! Barkley comes off the board! Admittedly, this has always been my favorite landing spot for him, dating all the way back to the beginning of this process, but with that being said, it doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.
Andrew Luck hasn’t had a legitimate running back since…… I’ll wait…. EVER. Here’s a fact: A running back has never rushed for over 100 yards in a game on an Andrew Luck led team. Basically, that means that all of the success that Luck has had so far in his NFL career has been completely on his own right shoulder. It’s no wonder why he’s in such shambles physically. With Luck (hopefully) coming back healthy this season, pairing him with the second coming of Marshall Faulk would be a match made in heaven. If the Colts don’t want to run him on the ground as much as say Zeke Elliott did in his rookie season, Barkley possesses equally elite receiving traits that will allow him to have an Alvin Kamara type of impact immediately.
7: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Derwin James | S | Florida State |
This seems like the biggest lock in most mock drafts (which ironically, typically means that it won’t happen) and for good reason, as the Bucs need a versatile, physical, safety to anchor their ever-developing secondary. James has as much star potential as anyone in this draft class, which makes him more than worth the 7th overall selection.
8: Chicago Bears | Quenton Nelson | OG | Notre Dame |
Another pick that makes a lot of sense and is being heavily rumored around the draft community. For the Bears, they would be getting not only the draft’s best player in Nelson, but also the player who will help the development of their young quarterback. As I have always said… From the day you draft a quarterback, every subsequent pick should be spent making him directly better. This pick does exactly that.
9: San Francisco 49ers | Roquan Smith | LB | Georgia |
Considering what I just said about young quarterbacks and surrounding them with talent, I really wanted to give the 49ers Calvin Ridley – the best receiver in the draft. With that being said though, I just couldn’t in good conscience, considering their suddenly glaring need at linebacker after the developments in the Reuben Foster situation.
Instead, the Niners get Roquan Smith – the best linebacker in the draft.
Many – including myself – think that Smith has hall of fame traits on the field in terms of sideline-to-sideline speed and an instinctual GPS for the football, however the reason he falls this far is because of his physical limitations for the position. Many scouts fear that he’s too short and too light for the position to hold up long term in the NFL, but if you just pop in the tape; it won’t take long to tell that he’s a baller. The Niners won’t be disappointed here.
10: Oakland Raiders | Vita Vea | NT | Washington
While the Raiders have certainly done their homework on Vea and the need at the position is there for them, I’m going to admit that I made this pick simply based off of the fact that I couldn’t get Gruden’s announcer voice, describing the size and power of Vea, out of my head. With the need at the position combined with the fact that Gruden is likely to be enamored with him, Vita Vea seems like a lock for Oakland – provided Roquan Smith and Quenton Nelson (two other guys he would fall in love with) – are off the board.
11: Miami Dolphins | Denzel Ward | CB | Ohio State |
The Dolphins have a few more glaring needs – particularly at linebacker and perhaps quarterback – but it is time that the Denzel Ward plummet ends. According to my rankings, Ward is the best cornerback in the draft, despite his underwhelming size for the position. In Ward, the Dolphins would be getting a guy who allowed zero completions in seven different games last season, while they would also be getting a guy who ran a blazing 4.32 40-time. He’s rather flawless as a prospect, so the slide could go no further than 11. An excellent BPA selection for Miami here.
12: Buffalo Bills (via Bengals) | Lamar Jackson | QB | Louisville |
This is not exactly a match made in heaven, as I would rather Jackson go to a place where he could start sooner and could collaborate with a more creative offensive mind; however, the Bills couldn’t leave the first round without grabbing a quarterback.
Some will be stunned that I don’t have the Bills trading up, but after missing out early on their top two options – Darnold and Allen – and being leapfrogged by the Cardinals for Josh Rosen, the Bills wouldn’t really have much of a reason to waste assets by trading up. Ultimately, Lamar Jackson is going to be a lot better than people think, so I’m a fan of this move for them, but selfishly from a fantasy perspective, I wish he would end up somewhere else.
13: Washington Redskins | Minkah Fitzpatrick | DB | Alabama |
It seems like in every mock draft that I have done so far this offseason, the Redskins end up with a much better player than their draft slot would typically offer. Almost no draft analyst has Fitzpatrick outside of their top-10 on their big board, while Dane Brugler of nfldraftscout.com has him ranked 2nd overall – the highest I have seen so far. Simply put, the Redskins will be getting an excellent player; a versatile playmaker who can pick the ball off as well as he can be physical in the run game. Where a lot of teams worry that he doesn’t have a defined position, like they did with Jalen Ramsey, they will soon realize that he’s just good in a lot of places. Expectations are that Fitzpatrick is best suited as a nickel corner, but he can line up anywhere along the defensive secondary really.
14: Green Bay Packers | Tremaine Edmunds | LB | Virginia Tech |
The Packers have needed to invest an early selection on a linebacker for quite some time now, and in Edmunds they will be getting one with plenty of talent and versatility. He’s the youngest player in the draft at just 19 years of age, while his Combine testing numbers put him Vic Beasley territory. He’s still raw as sushi, but by playing next to Clay Matthews and Jake Ryan, Edmunds will have the tools to learn both the inside and outside linebacker positions at a high level.
15: Denver Broncos | James Daniels | C | Iowa |
TRADE PREDICTION: Broncos acquire 15th, 47th, 134th overall, and a future 1st; Cardinals acquire 5th and 160th overall picks
The Broncos have made it no secret that they are looking to trade out, likely because they are not enthralled with this crop of young quarterbacks. By moving out, they got themselves a nice haul that should help them quickly revamp their suddenly deteriorating roster.
As for James Daniels, he’s not only a prospect that they have done quite a bit of work on this offseason, but he’s also a guy who can come in and start at either center or guard, right off the bat. Plug and play picks always make for great first round selections.
16: Baltimore Ravens | Calvin Ridley | WR | Alabama |
He isn’t the biggest, strongest, or even the fastest, but he’s explosive, sudden, and runs the full NFL route tree at an extremely high level. I liken Ridley to Davante Adams, in that both players measured in and tested almost exactly the same at the NFL Combine, while they also both are incredibly versatile for the position – can play inside or outside, have possession, deep threat, and red zone traits, etc. While the Ravens added some talent at the position in free agency, Ridley would still join this roster as an immediate starter and would serve as an excellent number two option behind Michael Crabtree.
17: Los Angeles Chargers | Leighton Vander Esch | LB | Boise State |
The Chargers seem to stun us every year with their first pick, so I figured why not go with a player who very few are connecting to them… All joking aside, LVE as he is being called now, would be a great fit in the Chargers ever-developing defense. He has the size and athletic traits to man the middle or play outside at a high level in this league. While he’s a bit raw at the moment, his development towards the second half of last season proved to me that he will quickly pick up the NFL game too.
18: Seattle Seahawks | Marcus Davenport | DE | UTSA |
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Seattle trade out of this pick, but I just couldn’t find the right partner for them. While they have seen an exodus of talent on the defensive end over the last couple of seasons, it is time for the Legion of Boom to reload. Davenport has enough talent and promise to make many consider him in the top-10, however his general football rawness is what will make him slide towards the second half of the first round. This is a long-term play for the rebuilding Seahawks.
19: Dallas Cowboys | DJ Moore | WR | Maryland |
It’s no secret that the Cowboys are looking to replace Dez Bryant, but I also don’t consider it much of a secret that they have more glaring needs than the wide receiver position. Unfortunately for Dallas, much of their board has been wiped out – aside for the offensive line – which leaves them settling for the best receiver available.
A side note here, I feel pretty confident that Dallas actually prefers Moore to Calvin Ridley anyway because they believe that he can play the X, Y, and the Z receiver positions – something that they aren’t sure that Ridley can handle.
Also, as a Cowboys fan, I feel that I should input my two cents here… Ideally they can find a way to trade up for Roquan Smith, Derwin James, or Minkah Fitzpatrick. With that unlikely though, in this scenario, I would be livid if they passed up on an elite edge bending talent such as that of Harold Landry out of Boston College. Edge rusher may not be their top need, but his type of talent and athleticism at the position doesn’t come around too often, especially as far down as the 19th overall pick.
20: Detroit Lions | Isaiah Wynn | G | Georgia |
Behind Quenton Nelson – the best overall player in the draft – most agree that Isaiah Wynn is the best offensive lineman out there. He played left tackle at a high level in college, but is likely to make the transition to guard in the pros. Detroit can not only play the board BPA here, but they also will be filling a huge need.
21: Cincinnati Bengals (via Bills) | Mike McGlinchey | OT | Notre Dame |
Rumor has it that the Bengals viewed McGlinchey as their top target back when they had the 12th overall pick, so they will be especially thrilled to get him now with the 21st selection. As a day one starter, the Notre Dame product will take his massive 6-foot-8 frame to the right tackle spot or even inside at guard, while eventually he projects to be an anchoring left tackle.
22: Tennessee Titans (via Bills, from Chiefs) | Harold Landry | Edge | Boston College |
TRADE PREDICTION: Titans acquire 22nd overall; Bills acquire 25th, 125th, and 162nd overall picks
With new head coach Mike Vrabel coming in, he is going to want to add talent and depth to this underwhelming Titans pass rush. Landry – the most accomplished pass rusher in the draft – has the speed and edge bending ability that will perfectly compliment the power and persistence of Brian Orakpo on the opposite side.
23: New England Patriots (via Rams) | Rashaan Evans | LB | Alabama |
The Patriots are certainly in the market for a new linebacker, and based off of their pre draft visits, they haven’t exactly tried to keep that a secret either. Evans is a traditional, downhill thumper, who will work perfectly in the Pats multiple defensive schemes. Wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if Evans racked up 120 tackles each season for the next decade-plus – he’s that type of nasty.
24: Carolina Panthers | Jaire Alexander | CB | Louisville |
The Panthers are not only looking for cornerback help, but Alexander also happens to be the best player left on the board. On top of that he’s a North Carolina kid, who would love to play for the Panthers. Sure he’s undersized, but his tape plays big, while his Combine performance was otherworldly. A home run pick for the Panthers here.
25: Buffalo Bills (via Titans) | Will Hernandez | G | UTEP |
TRADE PREDICTION: Bills acquire 25th, 125th, and 162nd overall picks; Titans acquire 22nd overall
Despite trading back, the Bills manage to grab themselves a plug and play replacement for the retired Richie Incognito. Luckily for them, Hernandez may actually be as powerful and aggressive as Incognito was in the run game, which should help them maintain their offensive identity.
26: Atlanta Falcons | Taven Bryan | DT | Florida |
With the loss of Dontari Poe, the Falcons will likely be kicking Grady Jarrett back inside to the nose, while they will be looking for another penetrating three technique in the draft. Despite being greener than grass in terms of football IQ and knowhow, Bryan flashes elite potential as an up-the-field disruptor. He may take a little bit, but eventually Bryan will fit right in with this already ultra-athletic defensive unit.
27: New Orleans Saints | Mike Gesicki | TE | Penn State |
The Saints already tried to sign Jimmy Graham during the offseason, and while they failed, that doesn’t mean that they are done looking to add that type of player. Gesicki is most often compared to Graham in terms of size, speed, and red zone capability, but he also will be far younger and cheaper. To me, this pick just makes way too much sense.
28: Pittsburgh Steelers | Malik Jefferson | LB | Texas |
It’s no secret that the future of Ryan Shazier’s football career is up in the air at the moment. Considering that, as sad as it is to come to terms with, linebacker has to be the number one draft priority for the Steelers. At this point in the mock, four linebackers have already come off the board, and while only those four are consensually considered as first rounders, I have a sneaky feeling that the Steelers would have no problem reaching for Malik Jefferson with the 28th overall pick. Not only have they met with him on three separate occasions – more than any other prospect – during this draft process, but Jefferson also possesses natural gifts that would warrant a first round selection. Only issue that I have here is that he’s not yet the sum of his parts, but late in the first round, all of the true first round prospects are gone anyway.
29: Jacksonville Jaguars | Hayden Hurst | TE | South Carolina |
While he’s ranked third on my list of tight ends, the consensus – if there is one – amongst draft pundits is that Hurst is the best of the bunch. The Jags are a team with few holes, and while I would rather have stuck them with an awesome slot corner like M.J. Stewart or Duke Dawson, this spot is both too rich for them and seemingly locked into an offensive player. Hurst is a guy whom they have done a ton of pre draft work on so they likely are comfortable with his advanced age (will be a 25 year old rookie) and his issues with anxiety and depression (the “yips” ruined his once promising baseball career).
30: Minnesota Vikings | Connor Williams | OL | Texas |
In what turned into a BPA selection, the Vikings also fill a huge need here. Williams is a guy who struggled with injury rust last season but has some pretty bad ass 2016 tape on his resume. He will immediately start as a guard or center in this league, while he has the potential to even serve as a franchise left tackle somewhere down the line.
31: New England Patriots | Kolton Miller | OT | UCLA |
The Patriots don’t usually have issues letting guys go; it’s kind of their thing really… However losing left tackle Nate Soldier is something that they will feel next season. In this pick, they try to recreate the magic that they had with Soldier by drafting another massive (6-foot-9, 310 lbs.), insanely athletic (4.95 40-time; 1.67 10-yard-split), left tackle. Sure, Miller may eventually turn into something, but right now he’s not even close to the sum of his parts… Quite frankly his tape stinks and the Patriots better not plan on having him start right away. I guess though this is one of the benefits of having two first round picks – you can use one on a project player.
32: Philadelphia Eagles | Derrius Guice | RB | LSU |
Teams coming off of Super Bowl victories, possessing rosters with very few holes, can truly take the best player available to close out the first round. Unfortunately for those other teams in the NFC East, that player happens to be Derrius Guice – a player fully capable of terrorizing the division for the foreseeable future. While he has the talent to start from day one, at worst, he will take over the lead gig once Jay Ajayi’s contract runs out after next season. Chances are though that Guice makes an immediate impact both on the field and as a fantasy contributor.