2018 NFL Mock Draft: Breaking Down Post-Week 6 PredictionsOctober 16, 2017
A lot can change between now and April, but results are starting to shape the 2018 NFL draft picture.
One of the most notable storylines has been the race for the No. 1 pick, which is a heated contest between the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers—the lone remaining winless franchises, thanks to the New York Giants victory on Sunday night.
For the purposes of this mock draft, we'll use the latest Super Bowl odds from OddsShark.com to set the draft order, which gives the No. 1 pick to Cleveland.
1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
2. San Francisco 49ers: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
3. Chicago Bears: Derwin James, S, Florida State
4. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
5. Los Angeles Chargers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama
6. Miami Dolphins: Arden Key, DE, LSU
7. New York Jets: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
8. Arizona Cardinals: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
9. Indianapolis Colts: Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
10. Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
11. Cincinnati Bengals: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
12. Buffalo Bills: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
13. Baltimore Ravens: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
14. Washington Redskins: Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
15. New Orleans Saints: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
16. Los Angeles Rams: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
17. Tennessee Titans: Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. State
18. Oakland Raiders: Billy Price, G/C, Ohio State
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
20. Cleveland Browns (from HOU): Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
21. Detroit Lions: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
22. Minnesota Vikings: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
23. Carolina Panthers: Harold Landry, DE/LB, Boston College
24. Dallas Cowboys: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
25. Denver Broncos: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
26. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
27. Atlanta Falcons: Marcus Allen, S, Penn State
28. Philadelphia Eagles: Ronald Jones, RB, USC
29. Seattle Seahawks: Brandon Facyson, CB, Virginia Tech
30. Buffalo Bills (from KC): Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
31. Green Bay Packers: Cameron Smith, LB, USC
32. New England Patriots: Lorenzo Carter, LB, Georgia
2. San Francisco 49ers: Saquon Barkley
The 49ers obviously need a quarterback, so it may seem odd for them to pass over USC's Sam Darnold in a mock draft. This is a special situation, however, as the 49ers could pursue Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins in free agency.
49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan spent time as Cousins' offensive coordinator in Washington, so a reunion in San Francisco could be a good fit for both parties.
Signing Cousins would open up the 49ers' draft plans, and potentially allow them to make a splash by taking Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.
Carlos Hyde has been productive this season in the 49ers backfield, but he hits the free-agent market this offseason. Given Hyde's injury history—he's missed time with a broken foot and a torn MCL in recent years—the 49ers may be hesitant to lock him up to a lucrative long-term deal.
Running backs worthy of a top-five pick don't come around often, but Barkley appears to have the well-rounded game that puts him in a special class of prospects, much like Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was a top-five selection in 2016.
15. New Orleans Saints: Denzel Ward
The Saints defense has made some strides this year in certain areas, but their pass defense remains an area of concern. Their defense entered Week 6 ranked 27th in the league in pass defense and proceeded to allow 312 yards through the air to Matthew Stafford and the Lions on Sunday.
Ohio State cornerback Marcus Lattimore was added in the first round in 2017 to help rebuild the secondary, but more work needs to be done.
If the Saints are willing to invest another high pick in the secondary, Lattimore's former teammate Denzel Ward could be a first-round target for Saints general manager Mickey Loomis.
According to CFB Film Room, entering Ohio State's game against Nebraska, Ward had twice as many pass break-ups as receptions allowed in coverage.
In a division with quarterbacks Matt Ryan, Jameis Winston and Cam Newton, the Saints need to have a strong secondary to compete. The tandem of Ward and Lattimore would give New Orleans some young playmakers to build around and put them in better position to compete in a tough division.
30. Buffalo Bills: Royce Freeman
Barkley has stolen all the headlines for draft-eligible running backs, but Oregon's Royce Freeman has also been quietly improving his draft stock this fall.
Freeman was banged up during the 2016 season but now that he's back to full health he's tearing up the Pac-12 and reestablishing himself as one of the top running backs in the 2018 draft class.
On Saturday night, Freeman turned in one of the best games of his career, rushing for 143 yards against a strong Stanford defense.
The Buffalo Bills could be among the teams interested in Freeman's services in the late first round in April's draft. LeSean McCoy is under contract through the 2019 season, but he will turn 30 during the offseason.
Even if the Bills plan on bringing McCoy back for 2018, they would be wise to have strong backup ready for duty behind their aging running back.