2018 NFL Mock Draft: Ideal 1st-Round Predictions for Top Prospects

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2018

Alabama's Calvin Ridley celebrates his touchdown catch during the second half of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Georgia Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/Associated Press

While Tom Brady, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell are busy pursuing the Lombardi Trophy, teams with favorable picks in the upcoming draft hope the next crop of NFL stars are on the horizon.

That figures to be the case with playmakers such as Penn State's Saquon Barkley, USC's Sam Darnold and UCLA's Josh Rosen headlining the 2018 draft.

With that in mind, here is a look at a mock draft, as well as a few ideal landing spots for some of the best available players.

              

2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

3. Indianapolis Colts: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

6. New York Jets: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

8. Chicago Bears: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

9.* San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

10.* Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

11. Miami Dolphins: Derwin James, S, Florida State

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

13. Washington: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

14. Green Bay Packers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

15. Arizona Cardinals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

18. Seattle Seahawks: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

19. Dallas Cowboys: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

20. Detroit Lions: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

21. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

23. Los Angeles Rams: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

24. Carolina Panthers: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

25. Tennessee Titans: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State

26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

27. Atlanta Falcons: Da'Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

28. New Orleans Saints: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State

30. Minnesota Vikings: Billy Price, OL, Ohio State

31. Philadelphia Eagles: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan

32. New England Patriots: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Oakland and San Francisco will flip a coin to determine the Nos. 9 and 10 picks. Picks Nos. 25-32 will be finalized after the playoffs.

             

Ideal Landing Spots

3. Indianapolis Colts: Connor Williams, OT, Notre Dame

Michael Thomas/Associated Press

The Indianapolis Colts need to improve their pass protection.

According to Football Outsiders' metrics, they were dead last in the league in pass protection in 2017 and finished 28th in pass protection the previous year. Keeping quarterback Andrew Luck healthy is of the utmost importance considering he hasn't played a game since the 2016 season because of shoulder problems.

Indianapolis went 4-12 with the quarterback sidelined in 2017 and hasn't made the playoffs since the 2014 campaign. The only way to realistically compete with the AFC South champion Jacksonville Jaguars, the AFC divisional-round bound Tennessee Titans and a Houston Texans side boasting Deshaun Watson in the immediate future is having Luck return and remain healthy behind a fortified line.

Enter Connor Williams from Texas, who will be the first offensive lineman taken in the upcoming draft.

Chris Trapasso of CBSSports.com called Williams "a brick wall in pass protection" in 2016 on his way to All-American recognition and praised his "world-class feet" and ability to always remain in position and "keep a centered base."

It is clear Indianapolis needs the help up front, and this is also an ideal landing spot for Williams because he can compete for a starting position right away on a team in desperate need of quality depth.

                   

16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

The Baltimore Ravens were a dreadful 29th in the league in passing yards in 2017, and Mike Wallace—who led the team with 748 receiving yards—is set to be an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

There aren't many explosive playmakers on the roster, as tight end Benjamin Watson was the only other player to surpass the 500-yard mark through the air. The lack of dangerous options in the aerial attack is even more apparent in an AFC North that features Antonio Brown, A.J. Green and Josh Gordon on the other teams.

Joe Flacco, who had just 18 touchdown passes to 13 interceptions in 2017, will need more playmakers to replicate his Super Bowl run from the 2012 season.

Alabama's Calvin Ridley knows something about championship runs after he hauled in a touchdown during Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship and another in the victory over Clemson at the Sugar Bowl.

He finished the season with 967 receiving yards and five touchdown catches after he had 1,045 receiving yards and seven scores as a freshman and 769 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore.

Even on a Crimson Tide team that often wins with a strong rushing attack and formidable defense, Ridley stood out with his versatility by running routes on the outside and in the middle from the slot.

Luke Easterling of USA Today's Draft Wire praised his route-running abilities and "dangerous deep speed" when evaluating Ridley's game, suggesting he could help a quarterback "beat defenses over the top" at the next level.

Ridley's presence and tendency to do just that would bolster a rushing attack that was a solid 11th in the league because opposing defenses would be taking bigger risks stacking safeties in the box.

Don't be surprised if the Alabama product walks right into a starting role as a rookie.

                

26. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

Doug Benc/Associated Press

The Jacksonville Jaguars were propelled by a dominant defense that finished 2017 second in the league in total yards allowed, first in passing yards allowed and second in points allowed. However, they will need to hand quarterback Blake Bortles additional weapons if they are going to improve a passing game that was a middling 17th in the league and extend this competitive window following an AFC South title.

The need for more options in the passing game is even more pressing, with wide receiver Allen Robinson set to be a free agent and tight end Marcedes Lewis, who will be 34 next season, facing a potential out with a club option for 2018 in his contract.

Oklahoma's Mark Andrews could help fill the void left by Lewis' prospective departure and give Bortles more of a pass-catching tight end considering the veteran had just 24 catches this season and hasn't surpassed 25 grabs since the 2012 campaign.

Andrews finished the 2017 campaign with 62 catches for 958 yards and eight touchdowns as the Sooners won the Big 12 and reached the College Football Playoff.

He also demonstrated a propensity to play at his best in some of the biggest moments considering he posted 104 yards and a score against archrival Texas, 102 yards in a shootout against rival Oklahoma State and two touchdowns in the Big 12 Championship Game against TCU.

The Jaguars will need production like that in critical games if they are going to continue being a playoff team moving forward.

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