Todd McShay NFL Mock Draft 2018: Notable Picks from ESPN Guru's Early Mock

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2017

FILE - In this Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, file photo, Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold looks to pass during the first half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game against Penn State in Pasadena, Calif. Darnold was selected to the Associated Press 2016 All-Bowl Team, announced on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

With the 2017 NFL draft less than a week old, ESPN Insider Todd McShay (subscription required) released his first mock for the 2018 season on May 4, giving NFL draftniks an early look at some of the top prospects available come next season.

Todd McShay 2018 Mock Draft
PickTeamSelection
1Cleveland BrownsSam Darnold, QB, USC
2San Francisco 49ersJosh Allen, QB, Wyoming
3New York JetsJosh Rosen, QB, UCLA
4Cleveland Browns (from Houston)Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
5Minnesota VikingsCalvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
6Denver BroncosMalik Jefferson, LB, Texas
7Indianapolis ColtsSaquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
8Buffalo BillsDerwin James, S, Florida State*
9New Orleans SaintsHarold Landry, DE, Boston College
10Miami DolphinsMinkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
11Tampa Bay BuccaneersArden Key, DE, LSU
12Chicago BearsTarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
13WashingtonChristian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
14Philadelphia EaglesBo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
15Jacksonville JaguarsDerrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
16Cincinnati BengalsMaurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
17Los Angeles RamsJosh Sweat, DE/OLB, Florida State
18Los Angeles ChargersDa'Shawn Hand, DT, Alabama
19Detroit LionsBradley Chubb, DE, NC State
20New York GiantsClelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
21Baltimore RavensAntonio Callaway, WR, Florida
22Buffalo BillsTyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State
23Arizona CardinalsMike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
24Atlanta FalconsCourtland Sutton, WR, SMU
25Tennessee TitansCameron Smith, ILB, USC
26Carolina PanthersSam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
27Oakland RaidersDerrius Guice, RB, LSU
28Dallas CowboysVita Vea, DT, Washington
29Green Bay PackersDeon Cain, WR, Clemson
30Pittsburgh SteelersIman Marshall, CB, USC
31Seattle SeahawksOrlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
32New England PatriotsDa'Ron Payne, DL, Alabama
Source: ESPN

The first surprise on this list may be the draft order. It's worth noting that McShay used an order generated by Football Outsiders and the site's projection for the 2017 season. It's a bit surprising that a Houston Texans team that went 9-7 with Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage and was without J.J. Watt for most of last season might regress with Watt back in the fold and Deshaun Watson likely starting at quarterback. 

Nonetheless, it would leave the Cleveland Browns with two top-four picks if the season plays out according to Football Outsiders' projections, giving the team the opportunity to pick arguably the top player in the draft (quarterback Sam Darnold) and best defensive player (Christian Wilkins).

Would it be unusual for the Browns to select a quarterback with a top pick a year after making DeShone Kizer a second-round selection? 

Traditionally speaking, yes. But given that Kizer is a major prospect and Darnold looks like one of the best potential quarterback prospects since Andrew Luck, the Browns would be hard-pressed to pass on the USC thrower if he has another excellent season in 2017.

As McShay wrote, "Watching WR JuJu Smith-Schuster in preparation for the 2017 draft, it was hard not to notice Darnold. He has the mental makeup, poise and arm strength you look for in an NFL quarterback."

He was excellent last year, throwing for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. If Darnold builds on last season, it's hard to imagine he won't be the first player off the board next April.

He's unlikely to be the only quarterback off the board quickly, however, with McShay projecting quarterbacks Josh Allen and Josh Rosen with the next two picks. Next year's quarterback class is expected to be excellent, so it isn't shocking to see the top three picks being used at the position.

For context, B/R's Matt Miller has all three quarterbacks in the top five on his big board for the 2018 draft, ranking Allen No. 1, Darnold No. 2 and Rosen No. 5. If three quarterback-needy teams find themselves at the top of the draft, three quarterbacks will be gone in as many picks.

For Allen, McShay noted, "Allen is very physically gifted, but he needs to improve his decision-making and be a little more consistent with his footwork. He has good mobility and the arm strength to make any throw in the book."

Still, with a strong 2017, he could be in the running for the top overall pick. 

Ditto for Rosen, though as McShay noted, " He has raw talent but needs to improve his accuracy."

Depending on how the draft order shakes out, of course, Wilkins could easily slide into the top three. He'll pair with Dexter Lawrence to give Clemson one of the top defensive lines in college football next season and with a big season should find himself in the argument to be the top defensive player off the board. 

Also of note is that 2017 projects to be a solid draft for teams looking to add talent at wideout or running back, with five receivers and three running backs off the board in the first round in McShay's first mock draft, highlighted by Alabama wideout Calvin Ridley at No. 5 and Penn State back Saquon Barkley gone at No. 7.