It’s that time again. NFL Draft talk is heating up as we are now just 50 days out and it’s time I join in the fray for the first installment of my Mock Draft. I generally like to wait until after the combine to have a real understanding of which guys are for real and which ones are pretenders. Also helps to have a better idea of the free agent class and where which guys are going. I am firmly in the camp that Kirk Cousins is going to the Denver Broncos, and you’ll see that reflected here. If it’s not Denver, then Cousins is on his way to the Minnesota Vikings, at which point I expect their former QB Case Keenum winds up with John Elway’s Broncos. Enough of the pleasantries, lets dive on in to the first round of the draft.
Cleveland Browns: QB Sam Darnold, USC
Despite what many may have you believing, Darnold is the pick for the Browns. General Manager John Dorsey will wind up in the same boat as his predecessors if he passes on taking a QB with the top pick to go for a running back or another pass rusher. This franchise has had Quarterback after Quarterback come in and fall flat on their face while passing on the likes of Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in recent years, they can’t pass again. Use the No. 4 pick to take the best player on the board, but they need to go Darnold at No. 1. He’s a franchise altering talent and the strong-armed QB Clevleand has long lusted for.
New York Giants: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Rosen jumped off the page to all scouts interviewing him at the combine for his level of intelligence and football IQ. That’s exactly what the Giants new regime will look for when drafting their next face of the franchise. Pat Shurmur will be there to coach the youngster through every obstacle and his talent speaks for itself. Veteran Eli Manning is reaching the end of his days and while he could serve as a mentor for the young Rosen during his first year, the Giants would be well-served to move on from Eli after 2018 and turn over the keys to the bright-upstart Rosen.
Indianapolis Colts: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Barkley solidified himself as the best player in the draft with his Combine performance. The two teams picking ahead of the Colts have pressing needs to draft their next franchise guy, and while the Colts have a ton of holes to be filled on both sides of the ball, Barkley won’t slip past the third slot. He’s a transcendent player both through the air and on the ground and one new coach Frank Reich will love to scheme up game plans for week-to-week for years to come with Andrew Luck (hopefully) at Quarterback.
Cleveland Browns: DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
The Browns would be landing a versatile and elite defender who could lead their defense for the next decade-plus in Fitzpatrick. He’s a tough and smart football player from the Nick Saban academy, which means he knows what it takes to win. Drafting Darnold and Fitzpatrick will go a long way towards changing the culture of the Browns franchise. Fitzpatrick’s character, leadership and production has earned him the reputation as one of the best players in the draft.
Arizona Cardinals: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Trade Alert! With Denver likely landing Cousins or Keenum, I can easily see Elway moving the No. 5 pick to a QB needy team for an absolute haul. In come the Cardinals with a pressing need at the position and a first-time head coach in Steve Wilks. Allen flashed his ability and potential at the combine and will be worthy of a team trading up to get him, especially with an early run on Quarterbacks. Denver has enough talent to take all the picks and slide down to the No. 15 slot. Strong-armed Allen in a dome, look out below.
New York Jets: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State
Alright, alright I hear you screaming at me while reading each pick that’s not Chubb. He’s not falling past No. 6. An elite pass rusher and best in the class is hard to come by and having one fall into your lap at six is almost too good to be true. Chubb has the talent to go number one, but with the pressing need for Quarterbacks in a QB-driven league, Chubb pays the price in my mock draft. The Jets recently moved on from Mo Wilkerson and would welcome Chubb to the Big Apple with open arms. Tom Brady and the rest of the AFC East QB’s would not be so happy to face Chubb twice a year for the forseeable future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: G Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Finally, an offensive lineman! Nelson is a physical and downright nasty mauler on the line of scrimmage. He’s got the potential to be as good, if not better than the best guard in football Zack Martin. That’s lofty praise, but he lives up to the hype and will keep Jameis Winston upright. A home run pick for the Bucs offense that could use some stability up front.
Chicago Bears: WR Christrain Kirk, Texas A&M
The former Texas A&M Aggie Kirk came away from the Scouting Combine as one of the real winners at the wide receiver position impressing scouts with both his potential as far as speed and catching the football to his leadership ability and football IQ. The Bears have several pressing needs, but first is to get their young franchise QB Mitchell Trubisky and new head coach Matt Nagy some weapons to work with. Kirk has the ability to be a breakout rookie with the Bears and would be the perfect selection.
San Francisco 49ers: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
John Lynch has his franchise Quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo, now it’s time to build a winner around him. That starts with drafting Ward who tore it up at the Combine and is the best corner in the draft. Any team that wants to compete at the highest level needs an elite corner to shut down the opposing teams best offensive weapon, Ward did that at Ohio State under Urban Meyer and will do the same under Kyle Shannahan.
Oakland Raiders: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The Raiders need to sure-up their defense if they want to compete. Smith is a physical, nasty hard-hitting machine from the SEC that will set the tone for Jon Gruden’s defense each week. He is incredibly fast posting a 4.51 40-time and will shut down the opposing run game. Drafting Smith and pairing him with Khalil Mack will certainly go a long way towards bolstering the Raiders defense.
Miami Dolphins: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
The Dolphins have been kicking the tires on drafting a QB this year perhaps looking to move on from Ryan Tannehill who missed all of 2017, while also buying Adam Gase a few extra years of job security. What better fit for South Beach than the reigning Heisman winner? Mayfield has described himself as the most accurate passer in the draft and is without a doubt the most explosive and polarizing figure at the position in the draft. While his size and off-field concerns may bring up some red flags for franchises, the Dolphins would be wise to take Mayfield at No. 11 as their next franchise Quarterback. The potential he has for this spot and this franchise is too great to pass up on.
Cincinnati Bengals: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
The Bengals would love for a player of this caliber to drop into their lap at No. 12. Imagine the potential of the 19-year-old Edmunds who is a quick, explosive linebacker who can play off the edge or up the middle. Pair him with the likes of Vontaze Burfict and the Bengals have two freakishly athletic and talented linebackers.
Washington Redskins: DE Marcus Davenport, UT-San Antonio
Davenport flashed his talent and athletic ability with a dynamite combine performance that will solidify him as a top 20 pick in this draft and one of the elite pass rushers in this class. Davenport is a dynamic edge rusher that has loads of potential and working across from the likes of Ryan Kerrigan will not only help for a fast-transition to the NFL, but also give the Redskins one of the better pass rushing combos in all of the NFC.
Green Bay Packers: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
The Packers need to do all they can to keep Aaron Rodgers healthy, that’s priority number one. With a new defensive coordinator in Mike Pettine many pundits will have you believe they go on that side of the ball first, but I am in the camp that they need to address that offensive line first and foremost before looking on defense. McGlinchey was a productive starter for the Fighting Irish and I rank him as the best in an overall down draft class for tackles. He’s a day one starter and one the Packers desperately need to upgrade their tackle spots.
Denver Broncos: S Derwin James, FSU
Now wouldn’t this be a steal for Denver at No. 15. Not only do they presumably get their next franchise QB through free agency, but they get a slew of picks from the Cardinals only to move down and have a top-10 pick and an All-Pro caliber safety drop into their lap. James would be a perfect fit with an already stout Denver defense as he has all the measurables and production to be a star at the next level and take the Broncos defense to new heights.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Baltimore loves taking guys from the Nick Saban school of football and he’s one of the best receivers in the draft. Ridley would be a welcomed weapon for a Ravens team that has lacked a playmaker on offense since Joe Flacco had the likes of Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith in 2012. Ridley may be undersized at the position, but can prove to be an elite possession guy for years to come with his route-running ability and athleticism.
Los Angeles Chargers: DL Da’Ron Payne, Alabama
Payne jumps off the charts to scouts for his potential and the performance he put up during Alabama’s championship run as well as recently in the combine. Pair Payne with the likes of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram and the Chargers will have a dominant and productive defensive line that will wreak havoc on the AFC West for years to come. He’s a quick and explosive interior defensive lineman that will be a nightmare for opposing offenses to try to slow down.
Buffalo Bills: DL Vita Vea, Washington
With Payne off the board, I can see the Bills swinging a deal to move up with Seattle and draft a dominant defensive lineman ahead of Dallas and Detroit. The Bills never replaced Marcel Darreus and outside of the quarterback position they can really use another imposing figure on the defensive line to solidify their smashmouth style. Vea is a massive Hawaiian defensive tackle with a frame that is designed to eat up double teams and be a force on the defensive line.
Dallas Cowboys: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
Whether or not Dez Bryant is still with Dallas, Sutton gives Dak Prescott an imposing target and frame on the outside and a red zone threat. Sutton flashed his speed and pass-catching ability in Indy and would be worthy of this selection by the Cowboys. Jason Garrett gets a new weapon at his disposal and another outside target to either pair with Dez or replace him.
Detroit Lions: OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
The first pick of the Matt Patricia era isn’t going to be sexy, but neither was their coach hiring. It’s a smart business decision for what’s best for the football team going forward. Wynn checks all the boxes for the Lions, the most important being improving an area that must be addressed and keeping franchise QB Matthew Stafford upright. Wynn played tackle for the Dogs but has the build to be a great guard at the next level and has what it takes to be a top-level one in the league.
Seattle Seahawks: OT Connor Williams, Texas
The Seahawks need to find ways to protect Russell Wilson. They swing a trade with Buffalo in this scenario and still have their picking of a top offensive lineman. Williams is a top-tier talent with the size and athleticism to plug into any spot on the Seahawks OL and represent a massive upgrade. The only pick for Seattle is on the offensive line.
Buffalo Bills: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
The Bills traded up to #18 to go get their massive Hawaiian defensive tackle and now sit at No. 22, the pick they got from Kansas City for Patrick Mahomes, and steal one of the best corners in the draft. Josh Jackson has the size, speed and physicality to thrive right away in the NFL and is coming off a junior year in the Big Ten where he snagged 8 interceptions. The Bills never replaced Stephon Gillmore who departed for the Patriots and Jackson is the best player on the board that upgrades the Bills at the cornerback position.
Los Angeles Rams: DE/OLB Harold Landry, Boston College
Coming off an injury-riddled year at BC, Landry still has the talent and potential to warrant a top-15 selection. He flashed his ability and speed at the scouting combine and proved he can be a dynamic edge rusher for a team that had to move on from Robert Quinn in a trade to Miami. Landry would do an adequate job of replacing Quinn off the edge and Aaron Donald can mentor him along. Wade Phillips can coach up Landry into a top-tier pass rusher.
Carolina Panthers: OT Kolton Miller, UCLA
The massive tackle should easily transition to the next level and with the right coaching staff working with him through his struggles, can be a high-level starter. Protect Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey and add to a playoff team to take them to the next level. Simple as that.
Tennessee Titans: LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
Mike Vrabel is taking over a Titans team that is coming off a playoff win before being handed a beating in Foxboro. The defense has potential, but could use an upgrade at the linebacker position with a dynamic player. Who better to take than a guy similar to Vrabel himself? He has the ability to play with his hand on the ground and set the edge, rush the passer, play inside or cover the pass. Vander Esch is the second coming of Vrabel which is lofty praise, but if the Titans don’t take him I can ensure you the Patriots will.
Atlanta Falcons: OG/C James Daniels, Iowa
Daniels is the most revised center prospect in the draft, problem here is the Falcons already have one of the best in football in Alex Mack. Atlanta could use some help on the interior offensive line protecting Matt Ryan and Daniels would be the perfect fit with his technique and ability to become a Pro-Bowl caliber offensive lineman. Safe but smart draft selection for the Falcons.
New Orleans Saints: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Sean Payton’s Saints did a heck of a job hitting in the 2017 NFL Draft which was a big component in getting them back to the postseason. That progress would continue in drafting the Alabama tackling machine Evans who could solidify and control the middle of the Saints defense for the next five-plus years. He’s a three-down player that can flow sideline-to-sideline and Nick Saban will vouch for just how important he has been for the Crimson Tide defense.
Pittsburgh Steelers: DE Arden Key, LSU
The Steelers have no issue taking players with medical red flags or character questions in a Mike Tomlin led locker room, and won’t have a problem selecting Key in this spot. He has top-10 potential and ability if everything else lines up, and that’s a big if, but late in the first round I could see the Steelers taking a flier on a potential boom or bust pass rusher Arden Key.
Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Mike Gesicki, Penn State
The Jaguars committed to Blake Bortles as their QB, at least for now, and already have a stout defense. That means they must use their first round selection to give their QB some weapons. In steps the Penn State tight end who dominated at the Combine with a 4.54 40-time and a 41.5″ vertical. Gesicki showed his hands and athleticism and displayed to all the scouts his ability to be a serious offensive threat warranting a late first round selection here by the Jaguars.
Minnesota Vikings: OG/C Billy Price, Ohio State
Price has an “incomplete tear” of the pectoral muscle that was aggravated during the combine and will put him out of drills and competition through the draft and the next four months. That being said, if his medical checks out or a team like Minnesota trusts their own doctors when evaluating, Price would be a steal here in the first round. The Buckeye dominated last season at center and was just as good playing guard the year before, he’s got all the tools to be an elite interior lineman and can bolster the Vikings unit that could look to add a franchise QB in Cousins or bring back Case Keenum.
New York Giants: OG Will Hernandez, UTEP
Shocker! The Patriots trade down and out of the first round. The Giants jump up from No. 34 to No. 31 back in the first round to leap-frog division rival Philadelphia and add a nasty offensive lineman. Hernandez was the standout lineman at the Senior Bowl and had another good showing in drills at the combine. The Giants need to repair their offensive line, and drafting Hernandez to protect their young QB goes a long way towards accomplishing that goal.
Philadelphia Eagles: DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan
Hurst has a heart condition that caused him to miss participating in the combine, but if his health and heart check out, he would be a late-first steal for the defending champs. One of the Eagles many strengths was their defensive line last season, and although Vinny Curry is expected to depart, they have already swung a deal for Michael Bennett to pair with Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham and adding Hurst to that mix as an interior defensive lineman will carry Philly through the regular season and back into the playoffs. Hurst is the ultimate value to finish off the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
For all of the New England Patriots fans who read through each pick waiting to see who your team will take at 31 and were disappointed, I’ll do you a solid. The pick for the Pats is Ohio State DE/OLB Sam Hubbard. Bill Belichick will consult with his good friend Urban Meyer, whom will sing the praises of his former student-athlete. Belichick knows he can land the player at No. 34 so he swings a deal with the Giants to jump Philly while accumulating more assets and moving down three slots. Belichick also gets a guy in Hubbard who can play on the edge in his hybrid-front scheme, set the edge and rush the passer, a player and position of critical need for New England.
I hope you all enjoyed my Mock Draft, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts or toss me a follow on Twitter: @FrankBostonTank