2018 NFL Mock Draft: Updated Projections for 1st-Round Prospects

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 12, 2018

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen celebrates after throwing for a touchdown with less than a minute to go in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Texas A&M, Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, in Pasadena, Calif. UCLA won 45-44. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)
Danny Moloshok/Associated Press

As much as the players themselves are responsible for generating buzz during NFL draft season, plenty of intrigue surrounds the behind-the-scenes machinations in every front office.

The first two picks of the 2016 draft changed hands, and the Chicago Bears moved up to grab the second overall pick last year. Given how highly Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold are regarded, another big Day 1 trade could be on the horizon.

And beyond just the potential for some major shakeups in the opening round, it's also interesting to ponder how teams with playoff aspirations in 2018—especially those who missed out on the postseason in 2017—will look to strengthen their rosters.

The stakes on draft day will be high for the four teams below, and that's bound to create some fun storylines to follow.

       

2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

2. New York Giants: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

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

5. Denver Broncos: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

6. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

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

8. Chicago Bears: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

=9. Oakland Raiders: Derwin James, S, Florida State

=9. San Francisco 49ers: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

11. Miami Dolphins: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

13. Washington Redskins: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma

14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

16. Baltimore Ravens: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

18. Seattle Seahawks: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

19. Dallas Cowboys: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

20. Detroit Lions: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

21. Buffalo Bills: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

22. Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs): Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

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

24. Carolina Panthers: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

25. Tennessee Titans: Arden Key, DE, LSU

26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

27. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

28. New Orleans Saints: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

30. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

31. Philadelphia Eagles: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State

32. New England Patriots: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State

     

Teams to Watch in First Round

Cleveland Browns

David Richard/Associated Press

By virtue of owning the No. 1 overall pick, the Cleveland Browns are one of the most intriguing teams in the 2018 draft. But the sheer volume of picks at Cleveland's disposal is what makes the team such a wild card this spring.

It's probably safe to assume the Browns will keep the top pick and select Rosen, Darnold or whichever quarterback catches their fancy. Beyond that, anything could happen.

With three picks in the second round, Cleveland could easily trade back into the first round if the right player is available. Even trading out of the fourth pick may not be that crazy.

The quarterback-needy New York Jets would be the perfect trade partner in that scenario. Cleveland would only move back two spots, so one of Saquon Barkley or Minkah Fitzpatrick would surely be available. The Browns would walk away with another valuable mid-round pick or two as well.

Some Browns fans will be reticent about getting too excited over a new front-office regime, and that skepticism is more than justifiable. But things do appear to be turning around for the franchise.

     

Denver Broncos

AJ Mast/Associated Press

While it would probably be a stretch to say John Elway's job is on the line based on the success or failure of the Denver Broncos' 2018 draft, he really needs to hit a home run this year.

Since Peyton Manning's retirement, the Broncos have failed to find a suitable starting quarterback. Neither Trevor Siemian nor Brock Osweiler is the answer, and even Elway said it's too early to make any firm judgments about Paxton Lynch, which isn't exactly great since he'll be entering his third year.

The most obvious consequence is that the Broncos can't capitalize on the Super Bowl window their excellent defense provides them. There's no excuse for Denver to miss the playoffs when 10 wins could've earned it a division title and nine wins was the wild-card cutoff.

Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman reported the perception around the Broncos may be damaged as well by Elway's inability to find a successor to Manning. One NFL assistant called Denver a "death trap" for coaches because Elway was more willing to pin the blame on his coaches—first offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and then head coach Vance Joseph—than accept responsibility for his personnel mistakes.

To his credit, Elway held himself accountable following the 2017 season, per the Denver Post's Nicki Jhabvala:

The 2018 draft is an opportunity to rectify that mistake by giving Joseph the franchise quarterback the Broncos desperately need. By not selecting a quarterback with the fifth pick, Elway would be sending the message Lynch is his guy going into 2018.

        

Buffalo Bills

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Unlike the Browns or Broncos, the Buffalo Bills shouldn't be all that desperate to find a new quarterback, but it has become abundantly clear the team doesn't have faith in Tyrod Taylor. You don't bench a quarterback in the middle of the season for a fifth-round pick if you have faith in his abilities.

Sure, Taylor helped get Buffalo to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, but there's no reason to think that alone will suddenly force the Bills' front office to have an about-face regarding the 28-year-old.

Since their earliest pick comes at No. 21, it's not a foregone conclusion the Bills will go after a quarterback in the first round. But since the team has the 21st and 22nd selections, Buffalo could easily trade up into the first round.

Rosen or Darnold would probably be unattainable unless the Bills were willing to part with a king's ransom of draft picks. Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson could all be available outside of the top 10, though, depending on how the next few months unfold.

Having two first-rounders and two second-rounders allows general manager Brandon Beane to be aggressive on draft day.

         

Seattle Seahawks

Unlike the three teams listed above, the Seattle Seahawks don't have to worry about acquiring a quarterback this offseason.

The Seahawks have the 18th overall pick, which is the earliest they'll be drafting since 2012, when they took Bruce Irvin at No. 15.

Whereas the team has been able to count on relative continuity from one year to the next, this offseason could see significant changes in Seattle.

The team already fired offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and offensive line coach Tom Cable. The Seahawks will also have to deal with Jimmy Graham, Sheldon Richardson, Luke Willson and Paul Richardson all hitting free agency.

There's also the matter of Richard Sherman's future with the team. He's coming off a ruptured Achilles, which can be a difficult injury from which to fully recover. Even before injury, Sherman didn't look like the same kind of shutdown cornerback he had been during the height of the Legion of Boom.

According to Over the Cap, the Seahawks could save $11 million against $2.2 million by cutting Sherman this offseason. The first round of the draft would be the perfect place to find his replacement.

Addressing a leaky offensive line would be an advisable strategy as well. Seattle was 31st in adjusted line yards and 26th in adjusted sack rate in 2017, according to Football Outsiders, which is a combination guaranteed to produce problems for the offense.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider has drafted well since the team hired him in 2010. Never before has his eye for talent been more important to the franchise as it transitions away from many of the people responsible for winning a Super Bowl in 2013.

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