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

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2018

Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (3) during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

Like Super Bowl winner LeGarrette Blount rolling downhill with speed, nothing can stop the momentum of the 2018 NFL draft now. 

Look at it this way: The draft is such a year-round force now the coin flip to decide minor draft positioning is a big deal. 

This year is no different. The globe turned its attention to Mobile, Alabama, for the Senior Bowl and will soon look to the scouting combine before then reacting to player workouts. 

There's also a thing called mock drafts, which offer up the official draft order and a different perspective on various factors. Let's look at another below, with a highlight on some of the biggest names.

             

2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

2. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

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

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

6. New York Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State

8. Chicago Bears: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

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

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

11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

13. Washington Redskins: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

14. Green Bay Packers: Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

15. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

16. Baltimore Ravens: Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

18. Seattle Seahawks: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

19. Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

21. Buffalo Bills: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

23. Los Angeles Rams: Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State

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

25. Tennessee Titans: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

26. Atlanta Falcons: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

27. New Orleans Saints: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

31. New England Patriots: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE, Oklahoma

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Ronald Jones II, RB, USC

*Denotes tiebreakers to be decided by a coin flip.

              

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State

Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

This 2018 class is so deep in the right places it manages to push a key defensive back down the board. 

With the top-flight DBs entering the league and panning out like Jalen Ramsey and Malik Hooker before his injury, it takes quite a bit to do this. But this is a quarterback-heavy class.

These details shove Florida State safety Derwin James down the board to No. 7, whereas in most classes he might be among the first five prospects off the board. 

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller put it best: 

Few players have the experience at various spots James touts, nor do many come close in the athleticism department. We can talk about numbers all day, but the film shows James doing it all, from blitzing well to attacking against the run and—most important of all—holding up well against the pass. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can't pass on the in-state prospect here. James hops into a shaky secondary and shoves Chris Conte or somebody else out of the way. He'll team with 2016 No. 11 pick Vernon Hargreaves to help a defense that ranked dead last in passing yards allowed a season ago at 260.6. 

James, like most, could struggle at first. But his addition gives the Buccaneers a franchise cornerstone behind stars like Gerald McCoy, who have only been able to do so much on their own. 

              

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

Sometimes it's just easy. 

If the Oakland Raiders walk to the podium at No. 10 and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith remains on the board, they should be laughed out of the building for walking to turn in the pick; they need to sprint. 

Smith is the easiest call in the draft and perhaps the surest thing. He's an All-American linebacker, Butkus Award winner, SEC Defensive Player of the Year and MVP of the SEC Championship Game. Got all that? Last season, he tallied 137 total tackles, 6.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hurries, according to ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Stats are hardly everything when it comes to a prospect. The NFL drafts more on upside, but Smith touts plenty of that as well. He's got uncanny play recognition and the athleticism to match, which helps him read a running play or break off into coverage. 

The biggest knock anybody can come up with is that he's "undersized" at 6'1" and 225 pounds, but position by position we're learning to stop worrying about something so silly. The game keeps evolving, and Smith has the talent to force some change of his own. 

It's a coup for the Raiders, with new head coach Jon Gruden looking to arrive with some attitude. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, too, will look for some elite play after spending time in Cincinnati with Vontaze Burfict. 

An elite draft class at critical positions forces Smith down the board here, allowing the Raiders to pair him with Khalil Mack, which is a bit unfair to the rest of the AFC West.  

             

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

The draft process is ridiculous in the way it works to tear down each top-flight quarterback. 

Wyoming's Josh Allen won't be any exception, especially not after a down year in which he only threw for 1,812 yards and 16 touchdowns against six interceptions. In 2016, he put up 3,203, 28 and 15, respectively, in the same categories. 

Injuries didn't help, though, and Allen never seemed fully in rhythm. Luckily for him, NFL scouts are more concerned with the traits a 6'5", 233-pound quarterback possesses and whether their coaching can mold him into a quality NFL starter. 

Bleacher Report's Ryan McCrystal had an apt description for Allen: 

With Allen, the NFL knows it'll come down to the mental side, as NFL.com's Lance Zierlein concluded: "Allen's receivers struggled to separate, but there were plenty of times where his lack of anticipation and post-snap plan did him in. Allen can make some truly special throws, but his ability to improve the mental part of his game will determine whether he's a good NFL starter or just another big, strong-armed guy."

Even for the quarterback-needy NFL, it might take a team with a pair of first-round picks to gamble on Allen. So it goes with the Buffalo Bills, a team still likely hanging on to Tyrod Taylor for the time being but also can't be thrilled with what it has seen from Nathan Peterman. 

It means rostering three quarterbacks, sure, but the Bills would be wise to use one of their consecutive picks in the first round to address the most important position of all. After all, the Bills have seen firsthand in the AFC East what happens when a team gets the position right. 

          

Stats courtesy of NFL.com.

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