2018 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Week 1 Projections

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterSeptember 4, 2017

2018 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Week 1 Projections

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    Who will be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft? That depends on which team holds the selection. 

    Using OddsShark Super Bowl odds as a guide for the order, this early mock draft takes a look at team needs and which college players currently project to the first round. 

    That word—project—is a risky one. Several of the players expected to be at the top of the 2018 class are projects at this time. Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen has all-world traits, but he must do better than the 15 interceptions and sub-60 percent passing he showed last year in his first season as a starter. Another quarterback, UCLA's Josh Rosen, must stay healthy after missing a large part of his sophomore season.

    Allen, Rosen and USC quarterback Sam Darnold have the skills to hear their names called early in the 2018 draft, but even Darnold has to prove his first season wasn't a fluke. 

    Could the '18 draft rival the 2004 class? In terms of talent, that seems impossible, but like that famed class, we could see three very good quarterbacks come off the board early.

1. Cleveland Browns

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    The Pick: Edge-Rusher Arden Key, LSU

    All summer the 2018 draft has been billed as the "Year of the Quarterback," but that doesn't mean the first pick will be a passer. Especially if the Cleveland Browns have success with rookie second-rounder DeShone Kizer in 2017.

    Cleveland has named Kizer its starter, and he has talent—last year at this time, he was ranked as the No. 1 quarterback for the 2017 class. If he plays to that potential, the Browns won't be selecting a quarterback.

    Arden Key has a skill set that makes him a true threat to be a top-five pick. He's 6'6", has added weight and bulked up to 265 pounds and has the speed and power to dominate on the edge. Key and Myles Garrett coming off the corners? Yikes.        

2. San Francisco 49ers

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    The Pick: Quarterback Josh Allen, Wyoming

    The San Francisco 49ers should be considered favorites to land Kirk Cousins if he becomes a free agent after this season. If that happens and Cousins reunites with new Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan, forget this pick.

    Right now, though, it's too early to assume the 49ers will land Cousins. Let's pretend they don't. Then what? Then you look at quarterback Josh Allen of Wyoming.

    Allen has a world-class arm and is a better overall athlete than 2017 first-round quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. He did struggle in his first season as a starter last year with interceptions (15) and incompletions (209-of-373). But NFL scouts fall in love with traits, and Allen's traits are elite.

3. New York Jets

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    The Pick: Quarterback Sam Darnold, USC

    Sam Darnold took over as quarterback at USC after the horrible 52-6 beating by Alabama, a 1-2 Trojans record and the struggles of Max Browne. All he did the rest of the way was go 9-1 and lead a nail-biting comeback over Penn State in the Rose Bowl.

    Darnold doesn't have traditional mechanics, but he's a gritty athlete with touch accuracy and the athleticism to run over or around defenders. You can't help but like the tools he brings to the table either. His 31-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio also points to a careful, mindful passer. Darnold has to prove himself in Year 2, but the tape he put out in 2016 had him looking like a top pick.

    It's no secret the New York Jets need a quarterback. The biggest question will be if they can successfully lose enough games to secure one. Their roster seems to indicate an easy road to a top selection.

4. Buffalo Bills

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    The Pick: Quarterback Josh Rosen, UCLA

    Another pick, another quarterback off the board.

    Josh Rosen, a junior at UCLA, isn't a lock to enter the upcoming draft. There are questions about a shoulder injury he suffered last season and as many inquiries about his opinionated ways off the field. When you watch him throw a football, though, everything else fades away.

    Rosen is a prototypical pocket passer with the added athleticism to evade the rush. What scouts will ultimately love about Rosen is that big right arm and his pro-style offense at UCLA.

    The Buffalo Bills must decide if Tyrod Taylor is the guy long term. All signs point to the team's choosing a young quarterback early in the next draft.

5. Los Angeles Rams

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    The Pick: Offensive Tackle Connor Williams, Texas

    Here's all you need to know about Connor Williams: He reminds me of a young Joe Thomas. 

    Williams, 6'6" and 315 pounds of lean muscle, is an elite athlete at left tackle. Unlike some previous finesse tackles we've seen come out of the state of Texas, Williams also excels in the running game and is a mean finisher. In two seasons, I've charted just one sack surrendered for Williams in a Longhorns offense that's lacked for talent.

    The Los Angeles Rams signed Andrew Whitworth in March, but the veteran tackle isn't a long-term solution on an offensive line that's been a major issue for the team since before it whiffed on Greg Robinson with the No. 2 overall pick in 2014.

6. Chicago Bears

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    The Pick: Safety Derwin James, Florida State

    Derwin James has big expectations in 2017 as a redshirt sophomore. Coming off a sophomore year that ended in injury after two games, James has had his name in my Twitter mentions for months, with fans expecting him to be the next Sean Taylor or Kam Chancellor.

    James is no doubt one of the most talented athletes in college football. Safeties are not drafted at the very top in the NFL, though. We saw that in April with Jamal Adams coming off the board in this exact same spot to the New York Jets.

    The Chicago Bears have a good young quarterback (Mitchell Trubisky), running back and pass-rusher, and they have an offensive line that can get the job done at a high level. Adding a dynamic safety with James' size (6'3", 211 lbs) and range would fill a massive hole on the roster.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    The Pick: Edge-Rusher Harold Landry, Boston College

    The top senior in the nation, Harold Landry reminds me of Noah Spence (the former Ohio State and Eastern Kentucky pass-rusher). Like Spence, he's a tad undersized at 6'3", 250 pounds, but he has the first-step quickness and instincts to be a player off the edge.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars drafted a guy like this in 2015, when they selected Dante Fowler Jr. from Florida at No. 3 overall, but a knee injury in his rookie camp slowed Fowler's progression. His 2017 season needs to be a good one, or the bust label will be thrown around. The Jacksonville defense is such that you can utilize multiple rushers in different roles. Whether Fowler develops or not, Landry is a fit on the defense.

    Quarterback is an obvious need here, but with the Big Three off the board, there isn't another signal-caller I would draft in the top 10.

8. Miami Dolphins

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    The Pick: Edge-Rusher Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

    During the run to a national title in 2016, a few players on the Clemson Tigers defense stood out, but none took over games like No. 99 Clelin Ferrell. 

    Ferrell, at 6'5" and 260 pounds, is just 20 years old and has already developed into one of the best defensive ends in college. He has the size to naturally play in a 4-3 defense and the bend to get nasty off the edge. That versatility and his youth will combine to make Ferrell very intriguing.

    The Miami Dolphins have an aging defensive end group, which is why they added Missouri's Charles Harris at No. 22 overall in April. Harris and Ferrell would be perfect bookends given Ferrell's power and Harris' speed.

9. Detroit Lions

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    The Pick: Running Back Saquon Barkley, Penn State

    The first running back off the board comes at No. 9, but Saquon Barkley is worthy of a top-five pick on talent.

    Barkley, at 5'11" and 230 pounds, has the ideal blend of power, vision, speed and third-down ability. Many will want to compare him to Ezekiel Elliott as a three-down threat, and that comparison isn't far off. Barkley needs to run with more aggression as he finishes plays, but what he brings as a total package is rare.

    The Detroit Lions have a running back by committee going, but the entire staff should do cartwheels if a talent like Barkley is there to pair with quarterback Matthew Stafford and a young offensive line.

10. Cincinnati Bengals

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    The Pick: Defensive Lineman Christian Wilkins, Clemson

    Christian Wilkins currently sits in my top five overall, but the run on quarterbacks and the need for outside pass-rushers pushes this talented defensive tackle to the No. 10 spot. The Cincinnati Bengals will gladly scoop up a player similar to their veteran tackle Geno Atkins.

    Wilkins is an interior penetrator with the tools you'd want in a player to eventually replace the 29-year-old Atkins—a move that has to be happening soon. In the meantime, Wilkins is a plug-and-play lineman who can rotate in as a pass-rusher.

11. Washington

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    The Pick: Running Back Derrius Guice, LSU

    Leonard Fournette was talented enough for the Jaguars to draft him No. 4 overall last year. His replacement for the Tigers will make a case to be a top-10 pick as well.

    Derrius Guice falls to pick No. 11, but Washington is in a prime position to fill the biggest need on the roster. He's also a great fit for a team that's built on a power identity. 

    Quarterback could be a need here depending on what happens with Kirk Cousins, but there isn't a passer ranked high enough to consider at this pick right now. Washington State's Luke Falk is the type of quarterback I'd keep an eye on for head coach Jay Gruden, though.

12. Los Angeles Chargers

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    The Pick: Cornerback Tarvarus McFadden, FSU

    With eight interceptions and 20 passes defensed in 2016, Tarvarus McFadden made a name for himself as an elite cornerback prospect. The 6'2", 198-pounder also has the size, speed and length to back up those numbers as a prospect.

    McFadden would give a much-needed boost of size to a Chargers cornerback depth chart that is solid but could use another young, fast, feisty ball hawk. Los Angeles will have other needs to consider (left tackle, quarterback, wide receiver), but McFadden looks like a steal at No. 12.

13. Baltimore Ravens

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    The Pick: Wide Receiver Deon Cain, Clemson

    Another Clemson wide receiver in the first round?! Yep. And you might want to get used to it.

    At 6'1", 190 pounds, Deon Cain doesn't have the size of Mike Williams or the above-the-rim style of DeAndre Hopkins, but he does have speed and is a smart route-runner. And if the success of those two is any indication, the Tigers receivers are extremely well-coached.

    The Baltimore Ravens haven't seen Round 1 production from 2015 selection Breshad Perriman and must get younger and more successful at wide receiver. Adding a more complete threat, like Cain, with a mid-first-rounder could open the offense back up for the strong arm of Joe Flacco.

14. Indianapolis Colts

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    The Pick: Offensive Tackle Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame

    Chris Ballard got the job as general manager, taking over for Ryan Grigson, and inherited a banged-up team that has massive holes on the offensive line. The quickest fix for that is grabbing an offensive tackle with true value in the first round.

    Ballard won't reach on talent, and in selecting McGlinchey, the Colts would get a tackle rated as a Round 1 player in last year's class with the upside to be even better this fall. He's experienced at right and left tackle too, which makes him an option to plug right into the starting lineup protecting Andrew Luck.

    I would love to see a pass-rusher here, but until the offensive line can prove itself, this has to be the Indianapolis Colts' biggest need.

15. New Orleans Saints

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    The Pick: Cornerback Denzel Ward, Ohio State

    It seems like every season mock drafts have the New Orleans Saints addressing the secondary. There's a reason for that. The team continues to need help at cornerback after trying to trade for Malcolm Butler and seeing Delvin Breaux decline because of injury. The best fix will come through the draft.

    Denzel Ward might be the best Ohio State cornerback of the last five years. He's tough, instinctive and plays with the awareness of a savvy veteran even though he'll technically be a one-year starter due to the talent ahead of him such as Eli Apple, Marshon Lattimore and Gareon Conley. 

    A quarterback of the future is still a need for the Saints. But as long as Drew Brees is there, the Super Bowl window stays open, and other needs must be addressed.

16. Minnesota Vikings

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    The Pick: Defensive Back Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

    As the college football season begins, some will rank Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick as a cornerback and others will have him as a safety. In that way he might just remind you of former Florida State star Jalen Ramsey. Those are comparisons I've heard already.

    Fitzpatrick wouldn't fill the biggest need for the Minnesota Vikings, but this is the type of player who could take a good defense over the top and make it great. Pairing Fitzpatrick with Harrison Smith and youngsters like Xavier Rhodes (a 27-year-old stud), Trae Waynes (25) and Mackensie Alexander (23) could make this the best secondary in the NFL if all the potential pays off.

17. Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Pick: Running Back Ronald Jones II, USC

    The third running back to come off the board so far is a perfect fit for Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson's offense. And if the Eagles want to help Carson Wentz develop, pairing him up with a speedy, dynamic running back right now is a great way to do it.

    Jones has electric talent and can straight up pull away from a defense. If Pederson watches the tape and sees a younger Jamaal Charles in the USC Trojans runner, it wouldn't be a surprise. And while he might not have JC's Olympic speed in the open field, Jones doesn't get caught from behind often.

18. Tennessee Titans

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    The Pick: Linebacker Jerome Baker, Ohio State

    A coverage linebacker with the speed to chase tight ends and even wide receivers down the field will always be valuable. Jerome Baker does that better than any linebacker in college while also being a force against the run between the tackles.

    Looking at the Tennessee Titans roster, there aren't many holes. One need is in the back seven, where the talent at cornerback is questionable and the linebackers are starting to get older. Baker would give the base and nickel defensive packages the type of presence to compete with the ever-changing passing formations and schemes in the NFL.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    The Pick: Safety Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

    When looking at potential team needs this summer, one area kept coming up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That area is the secondary. Ronnie Harrison is the type of punishing playmaker to fill a starting safety spot for the next decade.

    Harrison might be the best defender on the Alabama roster. He's a striker coming down from his perch at safety but also has loose hips, closing speed and the eyes to make plays on the ball. For a comparison, he's more like Landon Collins than Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

    Bucs fans would undoubtedly be happy with that type of impact anchoring a secondary that needs a center fielder to pair with Vernon Hargreaves at cornerback.

20. Arizona Cardinals

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    The Pick: Quarterback Luke Falk, Washington State

    The fourth quarterback to come off the board goes to a team in major need of a future signal-caller. Luke Falk is a smart, accurate, savvy quarterback with the talent and experience to become a starter early in his career.

    Head coach Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald might not be around for the Arizona Cardinals much longer. That reality should have general manager Steve Keim looking to the future. It's also rare when a team as talented as this is in a position to draft a viable long-term option at quarterback in Round 1. With Falk on the board, now is the time for the team to invest in the next starter at the position.

    The Cardinals had a great draft in 2017 by adding defenders Haason Reddick and Budda Baker. Addressing the offense throughout the 2018 draft is the way they should go.

21. Buffalo Bills (from Chiefs)

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    The Pick: Edge-Rusher Dorance Armstrong Jr., Kansas

    Selected at No. 21 in this mock draft, Kansas Jayhawks defensive end Dorance Armstrong is a player I believe can rise up boards even more throughout the 2017 season. Based on his athleticism and production, Armstrong is a standout player and a perfect fit coming off the edge of the Buffalo Bills defense.

    After grabbing a franchise quarterback earlier in Round 1, the Bills can use the pick they acquired from the Kansas City Chiefs to improve a defense that needs a small makeover to better fit new head coach Sean McDermott's 4-3 defense. Armstrong might have McDermott thinking he's found another Julius Peppers.

22. Carolina Panthers

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    The Pick: Center Billy Price, Ohio State

    It's rare to have a center ranked or drafted in the first round, but Ohio State's Billy Price fits the bill. A former offensive guard, Price is sliding inside to center this season, and he looks like a special one.

    The Carolina Panthers have a good center in Ryan Kalil, but the 32-year-old nearing the end of a bright career. Price brings the added benefit of being able to play both guard or center if Carolina doesn't need him as the anchor of the offensive line in 2018. 

    With a focus on keeping Cam Newton clean in the pocket, the Panthers would be wise to grab one of the more promising centers to come out of college in some time.

23. Cleveland Browns (from Texans)

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    The Pick: Cornerback Jaire Alexander, Louisville

    A big, physical cornerback with the instincts and ball skills to be a playmaker? Sounds like the perfect replacement for Joe Haden. The 5'11", 192-pound Jaire Alexander could slide right into the starting lineup for the Browns as a rookie.

    Using the pick acquired from the Houston Texans, Cleveland can continue building an impressive young defense. After selecting Arden Key at No. 1 overall, grabbing Alexander to complete an up-and-coming secondary would give head coach Hue Jackson's team a very strong and very young defense.

    Another consideration would be going for a young left tackle given Joe Thomas' age (32).

24. Denver Broncos

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    The Pick: Wide Receiver Courtland Sutton, SMU

    The run on wide receivers starts here. The Denver Broncos don't have a huge need at the position, but general manager John Elway has to look at the depth chart and see where a big, strong receiver like Courtland Sutton (6'4", 215 lbs) could help improve the offense.

    Sutton would have been a first-rounder had he declared early for the 2017 draft. He opted to stay at SMU and should be one of the most highly watched players in the country. There will be concerns about his lack of deep speed, but Sutton wins consistently with jump balls and muscle plays.

25. New York Giants

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    The Pick: Offensive Tackle Trey Adams, Washington

    One look at the play of Ereck Flowers and it's obvious he's not a solution at left tackle for the New York Giants. Maybe he'll flourish on the right side, but he's not a blindside protector. The sooner general manager Jerry Reese realizes this and makes a move to replace him the better.

    Trey Adams (6'8", 327 lbs) is a long, athletic blocker and is accustomed to playing in a scheme that asks him to protect on an island as a pass-blocker. Unlike Flowers, who was drafted on athleticism alone, Adams backs it up with actual technique and poise.

    With quarterback Eli Manning and a talented corps of receivers, the Giants could make another run at a Super Bowl if the offensive line can come together.

26. Dallas Cowboys

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    The Pick: Edge-Rusher Sam Hubbard, Ohio State

    Drafting a defensive end without any off-field issues would be an upgrade for the Dallas Cowboys. Selecting one with the power and technique of Sam Hubbard would give them a legitimate rookie starter.

    The 6'5", 265-pounder might not test exceptionally well for an edge-rusher, but his strength and ability to shoot through or around blockers at the line to make splash plays against the run and pass make him interesting as a weak- or strong-side defensive end.

    The Cowboys have played loose with character-flag players, and the defensive line is paying for it right now. Adding a high-character, high-impact defensive end should be a no-brainer.

27. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Anthony Averett (right)
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    The Pick: Cornerback Anthony Averett, Alabama

    I know, I know...the Pittsburgh Steelers just signed cornerback Joe Haden. That changes nothing. Haden, 28, is a one-year solution until the team can draft or sign a young starter. Nabbing a stout, sticky corner in Anthony Averett to play opposite Artie Burns is what I would do.

    Averett has been overshadowed at times by teammates like Minkah Fitzpatrick and Marlon Humphrey. At 6'0", 185 pounds, he can't compete with their size, but his coverage skills are on par with both of theirs. Averett is very good through transitions and can hang with receivers both big and small.

28. Atlanta Falcons

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    The Pick: Wide Receiver Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

    The Atlanta Falcons were one half of football away from a Super Bowl ring last season. With that in mind and by realizing this is a young roster with a lot of upside, you see there aren't many existing needs unless there is serious regression in 2017.

    It's more likely that the Falcons will draft the best player available and look to turn a solid group into a strength. By adding the speedy Christian Kirk, the wide receiver depth would be amazing while also giving signal-caller Matt Ryan a fast up-the-seam threat similar to what John Ross showcased during the 2017 predraft process.

29. Seattle Seahawks

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    The Pick: Offensive Tackle Brian O'Neill, Pittsburgh

    If you follow the NFL, you're aware of the offensive line problems in Seattle. It should be no surprise the Seahawks go offensive line in Round 1 of this early mock draft.

    Pitt's Brian O'Neill projects as an athletic left tackle, but a move to right tackle can't be ruled out given his size (6'6", 300 lbs) and leverage skills. He's tremendous in the running game, which also aides a move to the strong side. On Seattle's offensive line, he'll be an upgrade over the current talent at left tackle from day one.

    The Seahawks could use the 2018 draft to get younger at defensive back and wide receiver, but the ability to land a starting-quality tackle here is too tempting.

30. Oakland Raiders

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    The Pick: Linebacker Malik Jefferson, Texas

    Texas junior linebacker Malik Jefferson is among the most physically gifted players in college football. The reason he's still on the board at No. 30 is that his play thus far hasn't lived up to his potential. That could all change in 2017 and propel Jefferson way up the board. As it stands now, he's a great fit and a great value for the Oakland Raiders.

    The Raiders' defensive weakness is at the linebacker position, especially when matched up against athletic tight ends in the middle of the field. Jefferson is an immediate solution for that problem with his combination of speed and coverage agility.

31. Green Bay Packers

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    The Pick: Cornerback M.J. Stewart, North Carolina

    If you play at North Carolina and rock the name M.J., you better be a player. Luckily for Stewart, he's a stud cornerback prospect and is already making a name for himself among NFL scouts.

    Stewart, 6'0" and 205 pounds, has NFL size and speed. He'll match up at the line of scrimmage against pro-sized receivers and also has the quickness to turn his hips and run down the field with speed. He's shown a knack for living around the ball in the ACC too. 

    The Green Bay Packers have invested in cornerbacks but with inconsistent success thus far. Stewart's ability to play outside and inside cornerback would make him a valuable asset late in Round 1.

32. New England Patriots

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    The Pick: Wide Receiver Calvin Ridley, Alabama

    What do you give the team that has everything? 

    That's the problem with projecting a draft pick for the New England Patriots. They have few needs on paper, and many of the perceived weak areas have a young player ready to develop into a starter. When all else fails, looking at the best player available is the route to go.

    Head coach Bill Belichick doesn't draft receivers early, but he might make an exception for Calvin Ridley. Ridley is smart, a smooth route-runner and comes from a former Belichick protege in Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. That combination just might make him the eventual replacement for Julian Edelman.