Answering One 2018 Draft Question for Every NFL Team
Every NFL team heads into the final month of the season with a ton of questions. This week I took to Twitter to talk to fans about their biggest questions heading into the offseason. The results are below.
Many fanbases have questions surrounding the current quarterback situation or quarterback of the future for their clubs. Others are looking for key pieces to either rebuild or reload for a Super Bowl run. And as Tom Brady gets closer to the end of his career, everyone is wondering what direction the Patriots will go to keep their run alive after trading away Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo.
From the bottom of the draft order to the top, here's the answer to every team's biggest offseason question.
Which QB Should the Cleveland Browns Draft?
With the first pick in the 2018 NFL draft, new general manager John Dorsey should be looking for a quarterback.
If UCLA signal-caller Josh Rosen declares for the draft, Dorsey and Hue Jackson shouldn't have to deliberate for long about who the pick should be. Rosen's right arm is a beautiful sight to see. He's poised, accurate, intelligent and has the tools to be the franchise's foundation. Rosen won't crack under the pressure of being the next Browns' quarterback.
Rosen does have some warts—he's been injured often and is a little skinny—but he's the closest thing this draft has to a franchise quarterback prospect.
Where Do the New York Giants Go in Round 2 If They Draft a QB Early?
If the New York Giants own the No. 2 pick in the first round and select USC quarterback Sam Darnold (assuming he declares for the draft), where do they go in Round 2?
The Giants have needs on the offensive line, at running back and could use speed at linebacker (something former general manager Jerry Reese never valued). The 2018 draft looks like it matches up well with those needs.
In Round 2, the Giants could get a stud running back such as Ronald Jones (USC) or Damien Harris (Alabama). If the new front office values linebackers, Texas' Malik Jefferson could be the speedy, rangy linebacker this team has lacked for so long. And on the offensive line, where a tackle is a need, Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey could slip to the top of Round 2 and be an option.
Does GM Chris Ballard Surprise Us All and Not Pick a Lineman or Pass-Rusher?
When Chris Ballard was hired as general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, a former co-worker of his told me to expect a ton of linemen and pass-rushers in his first few drafts. Last year, safety Malik Hooker made a surprise fall to the Colts in Round 1, but this year, with an earlier pick, Ballard will have more big-time pass-rushers and linemen to choose from.
In almost all of my mock drafts, I've linked Bradley Chubb (NC State) to the Colts. It makes sense to give a team without a pure pass-rusher the country's best draft-eligible player there. In a deep edge-rusher class, Ballard could also go after left tackle Connor Williams (Texas) to protect Andrew Luck.
It would be a surprise to see Ballard go outside those two positions in the first round, but if Saquon Barkley (Penn State) is on the board, the Colts could take a "best player available" approach and grab the best running back prospect I've ever seen.
What Is the San Francisco 49ers' Best Option Besides Saquon Barkley?
My pick for San Francisco would be Penn State running back Saquon Barkley with the No. 4 overall selection in the draft. If he's not the pick, the 49ers have to try to trade down.
NC State pass-rusher Bradley Chubb is worthy of a top-five pick, but the 49ers can't spend a first-rounder on a defensive lineman four years in a row. Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick would be a good value, but the team has two safeties in Eric Reid and Jaquiski Tartt who are talented, building-block types.
What else is there? Texas left tackle Connor Williams could be the answer after Joe Staley ages out of a starting spot, but it's unlikely the front office would draft a future tackle before trying to trade back.
Options other than Barkley? A trade is the best one.
If Denver Broncos Don't Sign a QB in Free Agency, Does Josh Allen Go Here?
The Denver Broncos have a huge question at quarterback heading into the offseason. Is Paxton Lynch the answer? He doesn't look like it based on limited reps. Team president John Elway has to look at this offseason as a pivotal moment to find his quarterback.
Josh Allen is almost a local boy playing just up the road at the University of Wyoming. It's possible general manager John Elway sees a lot of himself in the strong-armed, athletic, tough Allen. Fans might see another Paxton Lynch-style pick, but Allen is coming from Craig Bohl's pro-style offense that would allow him to get onto the field sooner than Lynch was able to coming out of Justin Fuente's scheme at Memphis.
Do the Houston Texans Add Offensive Line or Secondary Help?
Without a first-round pick thanks to the Deshaun Watson trade or a second-round pick because of the Brock Osweiler salary dump, the Houston Texans have a list of needs to fill but must do it starting with their third-round pick. If there is an offensive lineman of value on the board when the Texans pick, that should be the selection.
The Texans' offensive line is built for a different style of football. When Watson returns he can't be running for his life every passing down. General manager Rick Smith should be 100 percent focused on the line in his scouting trips. Hopefully, he's seen Mississippi State's Martinas Rankin—a player I think could become a starting tackle for the Texans as a third-round pick.
Do the Chicago Bears Draft a Playmaker or Protection for Mitchell Trubisky?
The need for a playmaking wide receiver in Chicago is enormous, but does general manager Ryan Pace look at the draft board when the Bears are on the clock and go after someone to protect quarterback Mitchell Trubisky?
The smart move is going best player available, but protecting Trubisky should be the goal. I know the Bears just paid Charles Leno starting tackle money and he has struggled at right tackle when moved there, but if Connor Williams is on the board, he'd be hard to pass on.
Wide receiver is a need, but this is a little early for Alabama's Calvin Ridley or any other receiver to be drafted.
If Bradley Chubb and Connor Williams Are Available, Who's the Pick for Tampa?
The Buccaneers need another defensive end, but if left tackle Connor Williams is on the board, he is the player I would pick. Protecting Jameis Winston would allow this offense, which has plenty of playmakers, to open up.
Williams in Round 1 answers the left tackle question now and for the future. The Bucs could then circle back around in the second round and get a pass-rusher such as Austin Bryant from Clemson. And while Chubb is talented, I'd rather have a top-tier left tackle and roll the dice on a pass-rusher in Round 2 than try to find a left tackle outside of the first round.
Other Than Quenton Nelson, Which Linemen Should the Bengals Watch?
Offensive line is the biggest need for the Cincinnati Bengals after they lost Kevin Zeitler to free agency and have watched Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher struggle early in their careers. When the team comes up on the board in Round 1, offensive line should be the focus.
Quenton Nelson, the left guard at Notre Dame, is the obvious pick. If he's gone, Texas' Connor Williams, Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey and Oklahoma's Orlando Brown are tackles to consider in Round 1. I don't rank McGlinchey or Brown as a top-10 player, but the Bengals' need at tackle could have them reaching to fill the hole if Williams is gone.
Will Derrius Guice Fall to Washington?
Derrius Guice to Washington has been one of my favorite mock draft picks this season because he's a natural fit in the offense and the team needs a running back. And Guice's talent is special. He'll rank as a top-10 player when my next big board is released. Washington might get lucky, but teams like the Jets and Browns are expected to select ahead of them and could spoil their draft-day plans.
If Guice is gone, USC's Ronald Jones or Alabama's Damien Harris would be a great consolation prize, but neither is worthy of a top-12 pick. A trade back to get more picks and then selecting a back would be ideal.
Who Will Be the Best Offensive Weapon Available for the Jets?
I've reported before that the New York Jets love Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, but I don't expect he'll be on the board for them if they are picking at No. 11. With the top three quarterbacks unlikely to be available, the Jets could look to bolster the offense around the passer first and then use one of two second-rounders on a quarterback.
LSU running back Derrius Guice could be available and would be a fantastic fit in the offensive scheme of the Jets. He's a patient, powerful runner who can make plays between the tackles or in space. Guice is a natural runner with Day 1 starting skills.
Wide receiver might not seem like a need on paper because the Jets have good depth, but a No. 1 receiver is still a need. Alabama's Calvin Ridley has the route-running skills and speed to be that go-to receiver with Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa rounding out the corps.
Will the Dolphins End the Ryan Tannehill Era by Drafting a QB in Round 1?
Based on the current draft order, the Dolphins are in no-man's land in regards to the quarterback prospects. If the Ryan Tannehill era is going to end in Miami—and they can cut him after this season and walk from the $100 million contract he was signed to by the last regime—it'll be because of a free agent.
Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith and Tyrod Taylor are all expected to be available this offseason. And while you might argue Smith and Taylor aren't upgrades over Tannehill, they are cheaper options at the position. Double-dipping and drafting a quarterback like Mason Rudolph in Round 2 while signing a veteran (or keeping Matt Moore) is how I see the offseason going in Miami.
Is There a Fit at QB for Bruce Arians' Scheme?
One consistent rumor I've heard from scouts and coaches this season is that the Arizona Cardinals loved Patrick Mahomes in last year's draft and would have taken him had the Kansas City Chiefs not traded up to pick No. 10 to grab him. Assuming Bruce Arians is the head coach next season, there is one guy who fits his style.
Wyoming's Josh Allen is the closest thing to Mahomes in this class. And given Arians' love for the deep ball and strong-armed quarterbacks, Allen checks all the boxes. I could see Arians loving Josh Rosen—whose deep ball is a thing of beauty—but it would be a major surprise if he's on the board when the Cardinals pick. Given the current draft order, Allen might not even be around.
Is There Any Way the Oakland Raiders Don't Go Defense in Round 1?
The only scenario in which I could see the Raiders not go defense in Round 1 is if an offensive tackle prospect falls to them. If Connor Williams or Mike McGlinchey is on the board, the Raiders should consider waiting until Round 2 for defense.
Donald Penn is nearing the end of his career and will be 35 years old in 2018. Marshall Newhouse has been solid at right tackle, but an upgrade could be needed. If one of these top tackles is on the board, Reggie McKenzie should think about the future of protecting Derek Carr and consider getting a middle linebacker or cornerback in Round 2.
Who Can the LA Chargers Draft That Will Sell Tickets?
Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen?
Unfortunately, the Chargers have won too many games to be in on the two Los Angeles college prospects at quarterback. Selling tickets in L.A. won't be easy for the Chargers even if they're winning (like the Rams) or with a local product under center. Instead, the front office should be focused on the future at quarterback and how to turn this hot streak they're on into consistent success.
In the first round, I'd be looking at safety prospects like Ronnie Harrison (Alabama) to round out an already strong defense. The offense could use a boost on the line, but that'll happen when 2017 second-rounder Forrest Lamp returns from injury next season.
Does Jerry Jones Try to Trade Up Given the Team's Recent Struggles?
I don't see it.
Jerry Jones, and his chief lieutenants Stephen Jones and Will McClay, have built a successful team by not panicking, trading up or over-spending in free agency. The smart move would be to sit tight, take advantage of decent draft position from a down year (created largely by the Ezekiel Elliott suspension) and draft to either fix the defense or get younger at wide receiver.
Alabama's Calvin Ridley would be a great addition at wide receiver. As Dez Bryant gets older, Ridley would be a logical pick and a great addition to eventually be the team's top receiver.
Who Can the Detroit Lions Draft to Get Out of Being Average?
The Lions seem to be stuck in the middle of the NFL despite having a good quarterback, a solid young offensive line and some stars on defense. How do they get over the hump in a division featuring the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers?
Step 1: Fix the defensive line. The team hasn't been the same upfront since losing Ndamukong Suh to free agency. Even the once-promising Ezekiel Ansah looks average since returning from injury. With a pick in the middle of the first round, the Lions should be all over defensive line prospects like Clemson's Christian Wilkins and Clelin Ferrell.
Drafting to build a dominant defensive line is a great way to try to keep up with the Vikings and shut down the Packers.
With Two First-Rounders, Do the Buffalo Bills Trade Up for a QB?
The Bills mismanaged the quarterback situation by benching Tyrod Taylor for Nathan Peterman only to go back to him after one half (and five interceptions) of football. Now the team is facing an offseason in which cutting Taylor is likely to help the team's salary cap. And with two first-rounders and two second-rounders, the Bills have ammo to move up in the draft and get a quarterback.
If a team like the San Francisco 49ers or Indianapolis Colts would like to move out of the top five, the Bills have the draft capital to move up and get a Sam Darnold-type prospect. A trade to get a franchise quarterback would be expensive but not unrealistic.
Do the Green Bay Packers Try to Protect Aaron Rodgers or Upgrade the Defense?
General manager Ted Thompson tends to be a "best player available" kind of guy when it comes to the draft. If that's the case, it's hard to predict what direction the Packers will go in Round 1. What we do know is this team could use upgrades at linebacker and in the secondary. That's where I'd go.
After drafting Kevin King at cornerback last year, the future in the secondary looks bright, but in the middle of the field the Packers could use an upgrade. A fast, rangy middle linebacker would put this defense in a great position. Alabama's Rashaan Evans, Georgia's Roquan Smith or Texas' Malik Jefferson could be in play when the Packers come on the board in Round 1.
It wouldn't be a major surprise to see an edge-rusher here, either. Clelin Ferrell of Clemson would give the Packers a big, long outside linebacker option.
Do the Seahawks Go RB Early or Wait in a Deep Class?
The talent at running back in this class makes it easy to link the Seattle Seahawks to one of them. Alabama's Damien Harris looks like an ideal fit for the Seahawks' scheme given his power and vision. If he's on the board, can they afford to pass on him?
The only way the Seahawks don't go running back is if the team loves the defensive end or cornerbacks on the board. Richard Sherman is getting older (and suffered a season-injury Achilles injury), which makes another cornerback a potential add early. They could use more young talent at defensive end opposite Frank Clark. Adding another pass-rusher, like Sam Hubbard from Ohio State, is the type of move John Schneider would make.
After trading Jermaine Kearse, could Seattle go after a receiver? I think that's possible but more likely in the middle rounds of the draft.
Will the Baltimore Ravens Draft Another Bust at WR?
Ravens' fans are feeling the sting of missing on Breshad Perriman. And here we are again with wide receiver still a need in Baltimore.
The 2018 NFL draft doesn't have great top-end wide receiver talent, but the depth is good. It would make sense for Ozzie Newsome, an Alabama grad, to go after Calvin Ridley if he's on the board, but it would be a surprise for him to fall this far. SMU's Courtland Sutton is a big, strong receiver who excels playing jump balls and can out-physical cornerbacks to the ball. He's a value and a fit here.
Ridley and Sutton are the top two receivers on the board, so it's possible both could be gone by the time the Ravens draft. Texas A&M's Christian Kirk has speed and is a threat down the field, but he seems more like the type of receiver the Ravens have missed on in the past.
If Patrick Mahomes Is the Starter Next Year, Who Can They Draft to Help Him?
First off, Patrick Mahomes will be the starter next year. Or at least he should be. That must have been the plan when the Chiefs traded up to get him.
The offense in Kansas City is already loaded with talent. Tyreek Hill is a legit No. 1 receiver, Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the game, and Kareem Hunt has shown he can be a game-changing running back. Add onto that a good offensive line and the Chiefs' first pick (which comes in Round 2) should be focused on the defense.
Helping Mahomes develop and win in the NFL can be done by drafting to fill major holes on defense. In Round 2, look for Kansas City to go after a defensive back to help plug holes in a unit that's been porous all season.
Will There Be an OL Available for the Atlanta Falcons?
There should be—especially on the inside.
Ohio State's Billy Price is a special prospect at center or guard, as he played both in college. Price is a mean mauler as a run-blocker but has shown the instincts and timing to also excel in pass protection. Price can dominate at the point of impact and has the football IQ and toughness to be a trendsetter in the middle of a line.
With Alex Mack at center the Falcons are fine, but Price would be a major upgrade next to him at guard. With Price at right guard, Matt Ryan would feel a lot better about his protection.
Is WR an Option for the Jaguars with Allen Robinson a Free Agent?
If the top quarterbacks are off the board or the Jaguars can fill that need in free agency, then wide receiver is an option for Jacksonville at the end of Round 1. The key is the future of Allen Robinson—who's been out all year with an ACL injury and is a free agent.
Robinson is a true No. 1 receiver and shouldn't be allowed to hit the free-agent market, but if he does, the Jaguars would be wise to check out SMU's Courtland Sutton, Texas A&M's Christian Kirk or Clemson's Deon Cain. The team has a solid stable of receivers already on the roster, but if Robinson is gone, there isn't a No. 1 option for whomever is playing quarterback. That opens the door for a receiver early on.
Will There Be Any Impact Pass-Rushers Available for the Titans?
The Titans haven't gotten much out of former second-rounder Kevin Dodd, which makes the need at edge-rusher pressing for the front office in the 2018 offseason. Dodd, a bigger defensive end prospect being asked to play outside linebacker, hasn't been a natural fit here. Another Clemson prospect, Clelin Ferrell, could be.
The Titans need an athlete on the edge and a player who can beat offensive tackles with speed, length and power. Ferrell brings all three to the table and has experience coming off the right edge of the Clemson defense. He has been a little hot-and-cold this year, but Ferrell's traits are good enough to make him a top-20 pick.
Will the Carolina Panthers Pull the Trigger on Another Offensive Playmaker?
Doubtful. The Panthers need major help on defense, and the return of general manager Marty Hurney means they'll likely go back to the defensive line in Round 1.
Sam Hubbard of Ohio State is an ideal fit at right defensive end for Carolina. It would also make sense to add cornerbacks like Isaiah Oliver or Tarvarus McFadden if Hurney goes away from former GM Dave Gettleman's philosophy of not drafting cornerbacks in the early rounds.
The Panthers could go after an offensive lineman like Orlando Brown here, but the defensive line fits Hurney's style.
Where Do the Rams Go in Round 1 After Nailing the Last Three Drafts?
After successfully finding a QB, RB and a defensive lineman to build this team around, going after a premier pass-rusher makes sense. Ohio State's Sam Hubbard or USC's Porter Gustin would be a fit at right defensive end in Wade Phillips' scheme. If Clelin Ferrell fell to them, he would also be a good fit.
There will be a temptation to look at offensive tackle, but there are also none of value at this spot.
Do the Saints Finally Take a QB to Develop Behind Drew Brees?
It's way past time for the New Orleans Saints to find a quarterback of the future to sit under Drew Brees—who is set to be a free agent after this season. Brees' age and contract status make quarterback a premier need for the team. Add in the fact that they've ignored drafting a true successor to Brees and this becomes a bigger need.
Oklahoma's Heisman winner Baker Mayfield is the natural fit here. Like Brees, he's a smaller quarterback with excellent ability under pressure and late in games. Mayfield's poise is unreal, and he's able to lead a team without elite talent to big wins. Turn on the Ohio State game and you'll see what type of player he is against big talent on defense. The Saints could use that—whether or not Brees is back in 2018.
With Alshon Jeffery Re-Signed, Where Do the Eagles Go in Round 1?
General manager Howie Roseman has done a great job rebuilding this roster in a hurry, but now he must focus on staying ahead in a competitive NFC East. To do that, the Eagles have to be willing to draft a young offensive tackle and be ready to plug him in for Jason Peters as he nears retirement or Lane Johnson should he get suspended again.
Texas' Connor Williams should be long gone by this point, but Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey or Oklahoma's Orlando Brown could still be on the board. Both would be nice options for the future at either tackle spot. Similarly, Ohio State's Billy Price is a nice plug-and-play option at guard until he takes over at center for Jason Kelce.
Is It Time for Pittsburgh to Draft a Quarterback of the Future?
Yes. The problem is, there might not be one on the board worth drafting. After taking Joshua Dobbs in the fourth round last year, the Steelers might feel like they have a long-term answer, but they don't. If one of the top quarterbacks happens to fall to the Steelers, they would be wise to snatch him up. Otherwise, bolstering the defense is the way to go as long as Le'Veon Bell re-signs at running back.
James Conner was drafted last year to be the backup to Bell but hasn't had a huge role this year. If Ronald Jones or Damien Harris is available and there are no defensive weapons with a high value available, going after a running back isn't the worst play. The Steelers have always been a "best player available" team and should stay that way.
Do the Vikings Trust Their QBs Enough to Not Draft One Early?
Yes, but with a projected pick late in the first round, the Vikings might not have to make a decision at quarterback in the first round. The smart move is locking up Teddy Bridgewater and keeping Case Keenum to battle it out at quarterback next year. This lets the Vikings either continue to plug holes on the offensive line or finally get a safety opposite Harrison Smith.
Alabama strong safety Ronnie Harrison would be a perfect fit opposite the Vikings' Smith and might be available in the late first round. It's also possible that Penn State's Marcus Allen is on the board, and he would be a natural fit as a physical, intimidating safety in the backfield.
After drafting Laquon Treadwell and finding steals in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielan, it's unlikely the Vikings would go receiver here, but if someone like Christian Kirk falls, it wouldn't be unthinkable for them to go after him.
Which QB Can the Patriots Draft to Be the Backup and the Future?
The Oklahoma State quarterback seems to be perfect for what Bill Belichick looks for at the position. He's big, good in the pocket, an experienced starter and has the football IQ to digest the Patriots' scheme and learn under Tom Brady until he's either ready to take the job of QB1 or be traded away.
The Patriots also need help on defense. Linebackers Roquan Smith, Malik Jefferson and Jerome Baker all make sense based on value and scheme need. With two picks in the projected top 40 (thanks to the trade with the 49ers for Jimmy Garoppolo), the Patriots are in great shape to add two threats on defense that can step in right away. It all depends on how long Brady feels like he can play and how long Belichick trusts him under center.