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|
|1||Cleveland Browns||Sam Darnold, QB, USC|
|2||San Francisco 49ers||Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming|
|3||New York Jets||Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA|
|4||Cleveland Browns (from Houston)||Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson|
|5||Minnesota Vikings||Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama|
|6||Denver Broncos||Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas|
|7||Indianapolis Colts||Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State|
|8||Buffalo Bills||Derwin James, S, Florida State*|
|9||New Orleans Saints||Harold Landry, DE, Boston College|
|10||Miami Dolphins||Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama|
|11||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||Arden Key, DE, LSU|
|12||Chicago Bears||Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State|
|13||Washington||Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M|
|14||Philadelphia Eagles||Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama|
|15||Jacksonville Jaguars||Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State|
|16||Cincinnati Bengals||Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan|
|17||Los Angeles Rams||Josh Sweat, DE/OLB, Florida State|
|18||Los Angeles Chargers||Da'Shawn Hand, DT, Alabama|
|19||Detroit Lions||Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State|
|20||New York Giants||Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson|
|21||Baltimore Ravens||Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida|
|22||Buffalo Bills||Tyquan Lewis, DE, Ohio State|
|23||Arizona Cardinals||Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame|
|24||Atlanta Falcons||Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU|
|25||Tennessee Titans||Cameron Smith, ILB, USC|
|26||Carolina Panthers||Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State|
|27||Oakland Raiders||Derrius Guice, RB, LSU|
|28||Dallas Cowboys||Vita Vea, DT, Washington|
|29||Green Bay Packers||Deon Cain, WR, Clemson|
|30||Pittsburgh Steelers||Iman Marshall, CB, USC|
|31||Seattle Seahawks||Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma|
|32||New England Patriots||Da'Ron Payne, DL, Alabama|
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.
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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.