The 2017 NFL draft may have just ended, but it's never too early to look ahead to the 2018 edition with another college football season on the horizon.
In this case, though, the mock isn't going to focus heavily on pegging team needs. It's simply too early in the process. Rather, the exercise at this stage can be used as a general outline to peg players' draft stocks in advance of the 2017 college football season.
As a housekeeping note, keep in mind the projected order below was generated using Super Bowl 52 odds, courtesy of OddsShark. In other words, the team owning the worst odds is slotted in at No. 1, while the team with the best odds is at No. 32.
|2018 NFL Mock Draft (Round 1)|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Sam Darnold, QB, USC|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA|
|3||New York Jets||Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State|
|4||Los Angeles Rams||Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M|
|5||Chicago Bears||Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame|
|6||Jacksonville Jaguars||Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming|
|7||Buffalo Bills||Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama|
|8||Los Angeles Chargers||Arden Key, EDGE, LSU|
|9||Detroit Lions||Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson|
|10||New Orleans Saints||Derwin James, S, Florida State|
|11||Philadelphia Eagles||Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama|
|12||Washington Redskins||Derrius Guice, RB, LSU|
|13||Miami Dolphins||Harold Landry, OLB, Boston College|
|14||Cincinnati Bengals||Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma|
|15||Baltimore Ravens||Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State|
|16||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State|
|17||Tennessee Titans||Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas|
|18||Arizona Cardinals||Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State|
|19||Indianapolis Colts||Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson|
|20||Minnesota Vikings||Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame|
|21||Carolina Panthers||Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh|
|22||Kansas City Chiefs||Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State|
|23||New York Giants||Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama|
|24||Denver Broncos||Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State|
|25||Houston Texans||Byron Cowart, DL, Auburn|
|26||Pittsburgh Steelers||Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville|
|27||Oakland Raiders||Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU|
|28||Atlanta Falcons||Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State|
|29||Seattle Seahawks||Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama|
|30||Green Bay Packers||Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State|
|31||Dallas Cowboys||Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama|
|32||New England Patriots||Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama|
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
USC Trojans quarterback Sam Darnold is already considered the prize of the 2018 draft class, and the 2017 college football season hasn't even started yet.
However, that label isn't without merit.
Darnold put on a show during his redshirt freshman season in 2016, throwing for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He also led a spectacular come-from-behind effort to hand USC thrilling 52-49 Rose Bowl win on Jan. 2.
As a result, Darnold is the odds-on favorite (+300) to win the Heisman Trophy. Louisville quarterback, and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson clocks in at No. 2 with odds of +600, per OddsShark.
Furthermore, Darnold was so impressive in 2016 that he reportedly had the NFL Scouting Combine buzzing this March, according to NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah:
"This isn't a big surprise," Jeremiah said, per NFL.com's Dan Parr. "Personnel executives have spent the last month or so watching a ton of tape. When you're studying draft-eligible defenders against USC, (Darnold) jumps off the screen. He only has one year of college playing experience, but he's clearly captured the attention of NFL evaluators."
Assuming Darnold can keep things rolling for the Trojans in 2017, he should maintain his status as 2018's No. 1 prospect.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
When it comes to running backs in the class of 2018, the line starts behind Penn State's Saquon Barkley.
The Nittany Lions tailback has been a revelation since he debuted in 2015, and he continued to raise his profile as a sophomore to the tune of 272 carries for 1,496 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 28 passes for 402 yards and four scores.
And, like Darnold, Barkley erupted in the Rose Bowl to throttle up big boards everywhere. In the three-point loss, Barkley totaled 249 yards and two touchdowns from scrimmage, including a 79-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that left several USC defenders grasping at thin air.
"He has some juice, man," former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew said, per the Central Daily Times' John McGonigal. "He showed a little bit of everything. He showed his burst. He showed his vision, his cutting ability, the way he breaks through arm tackles, and then the speed at the end. He's definitely a guy that everyone will be watching."
A legitimate Heisman candidate (+1200, per Odds Shark) and three-down presence who should threaten 2,000 yards from scrimmage in 2017, Barkley looks like the clear No. 1 running back in next year's draft.
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
Not to be forgotten at running back is LSU's Derrius Guice, however.
Although he was overshadowed by Leonard Fournette at times in 2016, Guice showed why he should be a legitimate first-round consideration for teams in need of fresh legs in the backfield.
In 12 appearances as a sophomore, Guice rushed 183 times for 1,387 yards—good for 7.6 yards per carry—and 15 touchdowns. He also topped 250 rushing yards against Texas A&M and Arkansas last year, which put him in some esteemed company, according to the SEC Network on Twitter:
Perhaps more jaw-dropping was the way in which Guice piled up yards in one of those signature performances.
As Pro Football Focus' Gordon McGuinness noted, "Against Arkansas he forced seven missed tackles on 21 carries, rushing for 252 yards, including one that went for 96 yards. He averaged 5.6 yards after contact per carry in that game, forcing everyone to stand up and take notice."
Guice may not be as well-rounded as Barkley, but he certainly has the talent worthy of a first-round selection.