2018 NFL Mock Draft: Predicting Destination for Sleeper Prospects and Top Names

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2018

Josh Rosen has the physical tools and mental makeup to become a top quarterback at the next level.
Josh Rosen has the physical tools and mental makeup to become a top quarterback at the next level.Harry How/Getty Images

The NFL draft will take many turns between now and April 26.

That's when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the 32 teams will get together in Arlington, Texas, to bring in the latest crop of college players for the purpose of upgrading rosters.

The scouts have done the bulk of the most important work already. They have written reports based on what has happened on the field in the 2017 season. For some players, these observations will get obfuscated by what happens at the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine, private workouts and interviews.

All of those events are tools to learn more about players, their habits, potential, personalities and conditioning, but the most important thing is how well they perform in games.

As a result, some of the early mock drafts may mean more than the ones in the coming months. Many college scouts agree, but few general managers and personnel specialists would go along with that thinking.

Here's a look at our early mock draft, along with a more detailed report on a top prospect and two first-round sleepers. 

The order of the first 20 selections for the opening round is set, per ESPN.com. (Coin flips will determine the order in the case of several teams that finished with the same records.)

Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen
Wyoming quarterback Josh AllenMatthew Holst/Getty Images

                             

2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
4. Cleveland Browns (via HOU): Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame 
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
6. New York Jets: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
9#. Oakland Raiders: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
10#. San Francisco 49ers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
11. Miami Dolphins: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
12. Cincinnati Bengals: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
13#. Green Bay Packers: Arden Key, OLB-DE, LSU 
14#. Washington: Derwin James, S, Florida State
15. Arizona Cardinals: Billy Price, OL, Ohio State
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State 
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma 
18. Seattle Seahawks: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
19#. Dallas Cowboys: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia 
20#. Detroit Lions: Harold Landry, OLB-DE, Boston College 
*21. Tennessee Titans: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
*22. Buffalo Bills: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
*23. Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan 
*24. Buffalo Bills (via KC): Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas 
*25. Carolina Panthers: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi 
*26. Los Angeles Rams: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
*27. Jacksonville Jaguars: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
*28. New Orleans Saints: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU  
*29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
*30. Philadelphia Eagles: Ben Banogu, DE-OLB, TCU
*31. Minnesota Vikings: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
*32. New England Patriots: Tremaine Edmunds, DE-OLB, Virginia Tech 

# -- Coin flip will break these ties
* -- Playoff results will determine final draft order

              

QB Josh Rosen, UCLA

The way former head coach Ben McAdoo handled the benching of Eli Manning cost him his job on the New York Giants sidelines, but that does not mean he was wrong about his conclusion that the veteran quarterback is getting close to the end of his career.

Manning, 37 on Wednesday, seems unable to fight off the pass rush when his offensive line does not offer stellar protection. While he was never able to hold off the rush like Ben Roethlisberger, it seems the New York star may not be able to protect himself at this point.

That's why the Giants need a quarterback, and they will have an opportunity to take the talented Josh Rosen if the Cleveland Browns select USC quarterback Sam Darnold.

Rosen looks close to being a finished product at this point. He has excellent footwork, surveys the defense with a calm demeanor, has the arm strength and quick release needed, and he has shown he can come through with big plays when the game is on the line.

The 20-year-old could be the ideal choice to either watch Manning in 2018 or split duty with him before taking over as the full-time starter in 2019.

                      

LB Harold Landry, Boston College

The Detroit Lions need all kinds of help on the defensive side of the ball, and Harold Landry is a big, powerful man who can rush the passer from the edge.

Harold Landry is a punishing hitter.
Harold Landry is a punishing hitter.Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

The 21-year-old did not have the kind of senior season he would have hoped for because he was troubled by an ankle injury that caused him to miss five games. He has 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks in eight games this season after recording 50 tackles, 22.0 TFL and 16.5 sacks in 2016.

Landry demonstrated what he could do as a junior, and he has not lost that ability. He can come around the corner, cause havoc and improve a Detroit defense that ranked 27th in 2017.

                    

WR Courtland Sutton, SMU

The Saints could opt for a quarterback if Lamar Jackson is available, because they are going to have to replace Drew Brees eventually.

As long as Brees remains in the lineup for the Saints, though, he can always make use of a talented wide receiver with excellent size. That description fits Courtland Sutton, who checks in at 6'4" and 215 pounds. 

The 22-year-old caught 68 passes for 1,085 yards with 12 touchdowns this season after catching 76 passes for 1,246 yards and 10 TDs last year.

Sutton is talented when it comes to winning the 50-50 ball and should be a tremendous red-zone weapon in the NFL. Brees will get the most out of his ability.

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