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

Ryan McCrystal@@ryan_mccrystalFeatured ColumnistApril 29, 2017

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 12:  Quarterback Josh Allen #17 of the Wyoming Cowboys looks to pass against the UNLV Rebels during their game at Sam Boyd Stadium on November 12, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 69-66 in triple overtime.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

We aren't even done with the 2017 NFL draft yet, but it's never too early to look ahead at a 2018 NFL mock draft. 

Obviously a lot will change in the next 12 months. Inevitably, many of these players will lose momentum and end up falling out of the first round. And other prospects who aren't even in the conversation right now will have a breakout season and rise dramatically this fall. 

But the evaluation process for next year's draft has to start somewhere, so here is a very early mock draft featuring 32 highly touted prospects who have the potential to land in next year's first round if their development continues as expected. 

2018 NFL Mock Draft
1San Francisco 49ersJosh AllenQBWyoming
2Chicago BearsArden KeyDELSU
3New York JetsSam DarnoldQBUSC
4Los Angeles RamsOrlando BrownOTOklahoma
5Cleveland BrownsMinkah FitzpatrickCBAlabama
6Jacksonville JaguarsSam HubbardDEOhio State
7Buffalo BillsJosh RosenQBUCLA
8Los Angeles ChargersDerwin JamesSFlorida State
9New Orleans SaintsChristian WilkinsDTClemson
10Arizona CardinalsTarvarus McFaddenCBFlorida State
11Denver BroncosDerrius GuiceRBLSU
12Indianapolis ColtsHarold LandryDE/LBBoston College
13Philadelphia EaglesSaquon BarkleyRBPenn State
14Washington RedskinsCameron SmithLBUSC
15Tennessee TitansDerrick NnadiDTFlorida State
16Minnesota VikingsConnor WilliamsOTTexas
17Miami DolphinsMitch HyattOTClemson
18Detroit LionsTyquan LewisDEOhio State
19Tampa Bay BuccaneersClelin FerrellDEClemson
20Baltimore RavensTrey AdamsOTWashington
21Cleveland Browns (via HOU)Jaire AlexanderCBLouisville
22Cincinnati BengalsDa'Shawn HandDLAlabama
23Carolina PanthersMike McGlincheyOTNotre Dame
24New York GiantsBradley ChubbDEN.C. State
25Seattle SeahawksOgbonnia OkoronkwoDE/LBOklahoma
26Buffalo Bills (via KC)Courtland SuttonWRSMU
27Pittsburgh SteelersMaurice HurstDLMichigan
28Atlanta FalconsBilly PriceOGOhio State
29Oakland RaidersAzeem VictorLBWashington
30Green Bay PackersDenzel WardCBOhio State
31Dallas CowboysChristian KirkWRTexas A&M
32New England PatriotsMarquis HaynesLBOle Miss

Draft order based on projected order of finish

Notable Prospects for 2018

Josh Allen, Wyoming

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Quarterback Josh Allen #17 of the Wyoming Cowboys passes against defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun #91 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Gett
Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Very few football fans have seen Josh Allen play, but you might want to seek out a Wyoming game at some point this fall. 

Allen spent time in junior college before enrolling at Wyoming last year and lighting up the Mountain West. After just one year with the Cowboys Allen considered entering the 2017 draft before ultimately deciding to head back to school, according to Benjamin Allbright of 104.7 FM in Denver

Tony Pauline of DraftAnalyst.com recently praised Allen, calling some of his throws "jaw dropping" and predicted that he would have been in the conversation to be the first quarterback selected this year had he left school early. 

There are a number of highly regarded quarterbacks eligible for the 2018 draft, so Allen will have his work cut out for him to earn the top spot, but he has the potential to continue his development and be the No. 1 overall player selected in 2018.

Arden Key, LSU

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 3:  Arden Key #49 of the LSU Tigers celebrates after making a sack in the fourth quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Lambeau Field on September 3, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

With Myles Garrett now in the NFL, the title of most explosive pass-rusher in the nation belongs to LSU's Arden Key. 

Key's draft status for 2018 was up in the air earlier this offseason when Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron released a statement indicating that Key was stepping away from football for "personal reasons." But Key answered any questions about his future with a recent tweet:

OptimusKey_ @ardenkey

I am not sitting out my junior year.

According to CFB Film Room, Key has generated 87 quarterback pressures through his first two seasons at LSU. That type of production makes Key a special talent, and the type of athlete who is probably already prepared for the pro game. 

Assuming he maintains that level of production and sorts out whatever personal issues he needed to away from the field, he should be considered one of the first-round locks for 2018. 

Sam Darnold, USC

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 02:  Quarterback Sam Darnold #14 of the USC Trojans looks to pass the ball against the Penn State Nittany Lions during the 2017 Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017 in Pasadena, Califor
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Last summer Sam Darnold couldn't even beat out Max Browne for the starting job at USC but after taking over early in the season, Darnold's draft stock skyrocketed. 

Despite having just 10 career starts under his belt, the redshirt sophomore is already one of the most popular prospects in the 2018 and many fans, including Scott Stump of The Today Show, are ready to tank for Darnold:

Scott Stump @Scott_Stump

This Jets schedule is set up perfectly for 2-14 and Sam Darnold with the No. 1 pick next year. I'm on board.

Darnold lost both of his top receivers, Darreus Rogers and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and most of his offensive line, including left tackle Chad Wheeler. So a regression is possible in 2017, especially early in the season as the Trojans break in new starters at those key positions. But as long as Darnold is able to continue his development, he could be an early first-round candidate in 2018. 

Josh Rosen, UCLA

PASADENA, CA - OCTOBER 01:  Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins makes a throw during the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Rose Bowl on October 1, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)
Leon Bennett/Getty Images

UCLA's Josh Rosen rounds out the big three quarterback prospects for 2018. 

Rosen suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2016, which raises some concerns as he enters his junior year. But he's already throwing again and has been participating in spring practices. 

He'll need to prove he's fully healthy, but if he's back to form Rosen will remain in the first-round conversation.

Rosen's place in the first round has been assumed since he stepped foot on UCLA's campus and immediately won the starting job as a true freshman in 2015. In fact, during September of his freshman year ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit was already comparing him to Andrew Luck, according to Zack Rosenblatt of the Tuscon Star:

Zack Rosenblatt @ZackBlatt

Kirk Herbstreit just told us Josh Rosen can be an Andrew Luck-level talent in a few years. No pressure.

Hopefully Rosen's health is no longer an issue and he can get back on track to live up to those lofty expectations in 2017.


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