2018 NFL Mock Draft: Matt Miller's Midseason Projections
The NFL draft is all about hope. If you're a fan of the Cleveland Browns or San Francisco 49ers, you hope your team will make the moves to go from the NFL's basement to respectability. If you're a fan of the New England Patriots or Philadelphia Eagles, you look at the draft as a chance to improve one of the league's strongest rosters. No matter where your team sits in the draft order, you undoubtedly have hope about the upcoming draft.
Who will go first overall? Many believe one of the Big Three quarterbacks will hear their name called first, but running back Saquon Barkley could make that decision much more difficult than expected. A strong class of pass-rushers will also make the top-10 picks in the first round full of premier talents.
With six quarterbacks and three running backs projected in the first round of this mock draft, there are sure to be a ton of opinions on what each team does (and doesn't) do with the offensive backfield.
And just a reminder, my mock drafts are what I'm hearing teams would do and not based on what I would do.
The draft order used is based on current win/loss standings and strength of schedule.
1. Cleveland Browns (0-8)
The Pick: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
The Cleveland Browns are 0-8 for a second consecutive season, which tells me the problems are at more than quarterback. It's a top-to-bottom issue for the Browns.
Drafting a quarterback is the move most will expect the Browns to make with the first overall pick, but I'm not so sure. Rookie quarterback DeShone Kizer has shown enough flashes to build around or at least be given time to develop. Throwing him aside for the first overall pick at quarterback makes sense if the best player in the class is a quarterback. This year it isn't.
If the current front office is still in control once the draft rolls around in April, it wouldn't be a surprise to see a true best player available pick like the one made last year to add Myles Garrett.
Saquon Barkley isn't your average running back prospect. Even compared to other elite backs like Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette, he stands out as a premier player. Barkley's on- and off-field ability are top-notch. He's an excellent runner, receiver, returner and has improved as a pass-blocker. He's the definition of plug-and-play talent.
For a Browns team that needs an infusion of talent, adding the most talented player in this year's draft class is the move.
2. San Francisco 49ers (0-8)
Editor's Note: The 49ers reportedly traded for Jimmy Garoppolo after this mock draft was written.
The Pick: QB Sam Darnold, USC
Throughout the season my thought on the San Francisco 49ers was that general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan would use the expected more than $100 million in salary cap space to buy an offense in free agency. That idea loses steam if Kirk Cousins doesn't leave Washington after this season.
Hypothetically, what would the 49ers do if Cousins doesn't hit the free agent-market? Would they go after a Tyrod Taylor or Teddy Bridgewater type? It's possible, but my sources in San Francisco say the team loves Sam Darnold.
The USC redshirt sophomore has struggled at times this year with a diminished supporting cast and by putting too much pressure on himself to make plays that have led to turnovers. The talent that made him a top prospect over the summer is still there, though. Darnold's poise, football IQ, accuracy and mobility would be a perfect match for the Shanahan offense. And while Darnold's lack of arm strength might be a concern in Cleveland or Buffalo, the California kid would be right at home in Santa Clara.
3. New York Giants (1-6)
The Pick: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Eli Manning isn't all of the problem in New York, but the Giants are so rarely drafting in the top three that the team cannot pass on the chance to draft a franchise quarterback. Even one year after drafting Davis Webb in the third round, this is the right pick for the Giants in a year without a sure-thing left tackle prospect on the board.
Rosen is a seamless fit in New York. He's a big personality with a big arm and the tools to take over for Manning whenever his time is done. And like how Manning pushed out Kurt Warner in his rookie season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Rosen take the starting job soon. Of the Big Three (Rosen, Darnold and Josh Allen), Rosen is the most NFL-ready and the one with the fewest holes in his game.
There are massive needs at left tackle that may have the Giants considering Texas' Connor Williams if they can win a few games, but given the current draft order, it only makes sense to add a quarterback that can be the future of the team.
4. Indianapolis Colts (2-6)
The Pick: OLB Harold Landry, Boston College
In the 2017 NFL draft, first-time general manager Chris Ballard made true "best player available" picks in every round. I expect a similar philosophy in 2018.
Drafting an outside pass-rusher isn't only a value pick for the Colts, but it also fills a huge need. Harold Landry, who was held out in Boston College's huge win over Florida State with an ankle injury, has the agility and tools to be a stand-up rusher or hand-in-the-dirt guy in the mold of Cameron Wake.
Drafting a defender assumes that Andrew Luck is back healthy at some point this season or is given a clean bill of health for the future. It's a scary situation currently with Luck still nursing an injured shoulder following offseason surgery, but the trade for Jacoby Brissett might also cover the Colts in the event that Luck's injury becomes a career-threatener.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-5)
The Pick: OT Connor Williams, Texas
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers looked like a potential playoff pick headed into the 2017 season, but the team has suffered from a lack of a pass rush on defense and a struggling offensive line. Fixing either of those areas with a top-five pick would be the best move for general manager Jason Licht.
As mentioned in the intro, mock drafts are what I'm hearing teams would do and not based on what I would do, but this is a pick I would also make. Securing the left tackle position and giving Jameis Winston a potentially elite blindside protector would vastly improve this offense. There are too many instances of Winston having no time to make use of his wonderful offensive weapons. Williams changes that.
A junior at Texas, Williams is out with a sprained MCL but may still return this season. Before the year began I compared him to a young Joe Thomas in terms of body type and athleticism at the position.
6. Los Angeles Chargers (3-5)
The Pick: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Whatever you think of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen—some think he's an overrated, traits-only quarterback and others see a potential star waiting to be developed—get used to the idea that he will be a top-10 pick. That's based on multiple conversations with NFL scouts and executives again this week. In our midseason mock draft, he lands in a perfect situation at pick No. 6 overall.
The Los Angeles Chargers are facing a reality where the team must rebuild for life without Philip Rivers in the near future. Rivers is still capable of making plays and winning ballgames, but he's also almost 36 years old on a team that has no player on the roster clearly being prepared to take over for him.
The best situation for Allen is one in which he can sit and learn the game while being molded into the talent many think he can become. Being asked to play right away would not give him the chance to iron out his bad habits. Sitting, learning and watching Rivers gives Allen time to develop and gives the Chargers a quarterback of the future.
7. Chicago Bears (3-5)
The Pick: S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
I know that Eddie Jackson had a historic two-touchdown game in Week 7, but that hides the fact that the fifth-rounder has been average this season otherwise. The same goes for Adrian Amos, who is playing well against the run this season but is still an average safety. The Bears could still use an upgrade at the position, and Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick is a top-five player in the 2018 class.
Fitzpatrick has exceptional football IQ, leadership skills and is also a fantastic football player. In the past I've compared his skills to a mixture of Jamal Adams and Jalen Ramsey. That type of talent would be a welcomed addition in the Chicago secondary.
Wide receiver remains a massive need for the Bears, but that's an area to address either in free agency or in future rounds of the 2018 draft. As of now, there isn't a wide receiver ranked inside my top 20.
8. Oakland Raiders (3-5)
The Pick: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
The Oakland Raider offensive line is no longer the best in the AFC. You can thank the play of the offensive tackles for that. Donald Penn, now 34 years old, can't be seen as the short-term answer at left tackle protecting Derek Carr. The time to draft his replacement is now.
Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey had a first-round grade on my board last season before he decided to stay in college for his senior season. Now McGlinchey is paving the way for running back Josh Adams as he makes a legit claim on a Heisman invite. McGlinchey compares well to a Taylor Lewan-type left tackle who excels in the run game and can hold his own in pass protection.
The Raiders shouldn't expect to be drafting in the top 10 often, which makes it important to grab a top-end starter at a premier position while they can.
9. New York Jets (3-5)
The Pick: DE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
Just missing out on the Big Three quarterbacks would be a nightmare for Jets fans, but the silver lining is the team can draft a top-tier pass-rusher to round out a defense that is full of promising young players.
Bradley Chubb has been a monster this season coming off the edge of the Wolfpack defense. At 6'3" and 275 pounds, he has the size, athleticism and power to be a fit in Todd Bowles' scheme either as a defensive end with his hand down or a stand-up rusher with speed. Chubb's tools at pick No. 9 in a relatively weak draft class this year feels like a steal for the Jets.
How do you solve the quarterback problem without a top pick? The Jets do have an extra second-rounder and could be aggressive in trading up in a scenario like this, or they could go after a Tyrod Taylor or Alex Smith option in the offseason. There are other avenues outside of the draft that would appeal to this front office.
10. Arizona Cardinals (3-4)
The Pick: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
The Arizona Cardinals loaded up with a roster of veterans and a patchwork offensive line to try to make a Super Bowl run as Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald got near the end of their careers. Ultimately, the team has fallen short and is now faced with an almost complete rebuild on offense coming soon.
The job of rebuilding would ideally start with a quarterback to replace Palmer when he does retire. The bad news is that at pick No. 10 overall, there isn't a value on the board at the position. Moving down the list of needs and looking for value, finding an X receiver to eventually take Fitzgerald's place would be a smart move.
SMU's Courtland Sutton is a big-bodied (6'4", 215 lbs) receiver with excellent ability to play above the turf and has the mixture of speed and power to pick up yards after the catch. With no quarterback worth reaching for here, Sutton looks like the right pick.
11. Cincinnati Bengals (3-4)
The Pick: S Derwin James, FSU
The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the NFL's most intriguing young rosters, especially on defense with pass-rushers Chris Smith, Carl Lawson and Jordan Willis. The temptation to go after Arden Key here as a best player available doesn't fit any needs on the roster.
The one area where the Bengals haven't drafted recently is safety, where Shawn Williams and George Iloka are solid but have yet to emerge as blue-chip starters. With the No. 11 pick, the Bengals are in position to get a potential top-tier player with an athlete like Derwin James.
James, who was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school, is still shaking off the rust of a 2016 knee injury that shows up on tape, as he's a little hesitant to make plays coming downhill. But when healthy, he has the instincts and athleticism to be an impact safety with range and power.
Safety isn't the biggest need for the Bengals, but adding James to an already impressive young defense could allow Cincinnati to build a future strength.
12. Cleveland Browns from Texans (3-4)
The Pick: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Throw out the statistics when you look at Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley. The Alabama passing attack isn't great, and quarterback Jalen Hurts is more runner than passer, which limits the number and quality of targets Ridley receives. Try instead to look at a cutup of the catches he makes and what he can do as a route-runner and runner after the catch.
Ridley (6'1", 188 lbs) is incredibly quick with or without the ball. He's a pristine route-runner and understands timing, technique and how to win with leverage in his route. He's also quick enough to beat cornerbacks with agility at the line of scrimmage or lose them in transitions.
Wide receiver remains a massive need for the Browns despite spending four draft picks on them in the 2016 draft and signing Kenny Britt in free agency. Ridley would bring a professionalism and athleticism to the group that's currently missing.
13. Washington (3-4)
The Pick: RB Damien Harris, Alabama
Everything Washington does this offseason depends on one thing—is Kirk Cousins back as the quarterback in 2018?
If Cousins is back, this pick can be spent improving the roster. If he's playing in San Francisco next year, the front office may look long and hard at a quarterback like Mason Rudolph here. For this midseason mock draft, we're going to assume Cousins stays in Washington so fans can get a look at what an offseason would look like with him still on the roster.
With Cousins under center, Washington could use an upgrade at running back. The team never found a go-to guy after Alfred Morris left town. Chris Thompson is a fine piece, but he's a complementary back and not a premier player. Damien Harris is a premier player.
Harris, coming out of Alabama, is just 20 years old and already has shown the power, vision and burst to be a starting NFL running back. His stats might not look great because he's sharing the load with his quarterback and a few other running backs in Tuscaloosa, but the film shows Harris as a legit Round 1 back.
14. Detroit Lions (3-4)
The Pick: DE Arden Key, LSU
If Arden Key is still on the board at this point in the draft, NFL teams are concerned about his injury history and his decision to briefly leave the LSU team this past spring. On talent, Key is a top-10 pick, but there are questions about his shoulder injury and his love of football.
Since coming back, Key has worked himself into football shape and has been a force for the LSU defense. At 6'6" and 265 pounds with a body that looks like a young Jason Taylor, Key has the ideal mixture of length, agility and power to pressure quarterbacks coming off the edge of the defense.
The Lions would be in a unique situation to grab a potential steal in Key if they're comfortable with him off the field. Pairing up Key with Ziggy Ansah at defensive end could turn this unit into one of the NFL's best, giving defensive coordinator Teryl Austin a lot of options with which to attack the backfield.
15. Baltimore Ravens (4-4)
The Pick: RB Derrius Guice, LSU
The Baltimore Ravens have a good stable of running backs, but they don't have anyone like Derrius Guice.
Guice, who was slowed earlier this season with a knee injury, exploded onto the scene with a 276-yard day against Ole Miss once fully healthy. At 5'11" and 218 pounds, he runs with a mixture of speed, balance and violence that is rare in college or the NFL.
As the Ravens retool their offense, it makes sense to go back to the days of a premier back to take pressure off quarterback Joe Flacco. Guice can be the type of player a young Ray Rice was in the offense, with tools as a runner and receiver. And given the Ravens' issues with wide receiver health, having Guice as a safety valve out of the backfield would make life easier for everyone.
16. Denver Broncos (3-3)
The Pick: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Using a top-20 pick on an offensive guard isn't the most fun way to spend a draft pick, but Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson will be the highest-graded guard on my board since Brandon Scherff left Iowa in the 2015 NFL draft. Scherff went on to be the No. 5 pick that year.
Nelson is a mauler in the run game but is also silky smooth as a pass protector playing left guard. If John Elway surveys the draft board and sees the possibility of teaming up Nelson and Ronald Leary with Matt Paradis in the middle, he has to realize Denver's interior offensive line could be one of the league's best.
Guard is the biggest need for the Broncos on my current list. The quarterback position also has to be considered after the struggles of Trevor Siemian and the absence of Paxton Lynch.
For Denver, however, it's too early to spend a first-rounder on any of the available passers in this class. None of the currently available options would provide an immediate upgrade over Siemian or Lynch.
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-3)
The Pick: QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Quarterback Blake Bortles is signed on his rookie contract through the 2018 season, which means he'll be sticking around Jacksonville for another year. That's good news for the Jaguars, because it allows them to draft a quarterback and acclimate him to the offense without forcing a young player onto the field right away.
When looking at what team president Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone will want in a quarterback, Oklahoma State's pocket passer Mason Rudolph will likely fit the bill. He doesn't have the biggest arm, but he has poise and accuracy and can get out of the pocket when needed with his feet. Rudolph is also the anti-Bortles with his conservative decision-making and wouldn't be the type of quarterback to make risky plays with his arm.
Lamar Jackson might be a fan favorite, but I don't see the Jaguars' brain trust going after a smaller running quarterback given Coughlin and Marrone's preference for a play-action, power-run offense.
18. Tennessee Titans (4-3)
The Pick: DL Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Thanks to a number of trades, the Tennessee Titans have had a nice collection of draft picks in recent years. However, guys like second-year defensive end Kevin Dodd and rookie wideout Corey Davis have yet to make a major impact. They're all still young, but the draft picks need to start producing. That could lead to the front office looking for a sure thing in the first round next spring instead of a project pick.
Defensive tackle Christian Wilkins looks pretty safe. The 6'4", 300-pounder has been productive on the Clemson defensive line as a penetrator and a run defender. He has the size and athleticism to play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, too. That's great news for defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau as he looks for versatile defenders to go get the quarterback.
A stand-up pass-rusher would be nice here, but given the depth at the position and the value on the board, the Titans shouldn't overlook Wilkins to fill a need.
19. Dallas Cowboys (4-3)
The Pick: CB Holton Hill, Texas
The Dallas Cowboys used second- and third-rounders in last year's draft to select cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis, respectively, but they still don't have a true No. 1 cornerback on the roster. Team owner Jerry Jones can change that by driving down to Austin and taking a look at Holton "Hollywood" Hill.
The 6'3", 200-pound junior cornerback has eye-popping tools and traits. Hill's arm length, toughness as a tackler and 4.5 speed might just remind you of a young Richard Sherman. On the year, Hill has two interceptions, both of which he returned for touchdowns. He also continues to impress with five passes defensed despite offenses staying away from his side of the field.
The Dallas front seven could use a few upgrades, but the Cowboys can't afford to pass on a talent like Hill.
20. Green Bay Packers (4-3)
The Pick: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Green Bay Packers enter the offseason needing an upgrade at outside cornerback given the free agent status of Davon House and the move of Damarious Randall to an inside cornerback spot. Ohio State's Denzel Ward is a natural fit in man coverage and has the toughness to appeal to the Packers' front office.
Ward isn't the biggest cornerback at 5'11" and 190 pounds but has a tenacity that's undeniable. He's a hitter who excels when driving back toward the ball on breaking routes and uses his exceptional length to break up passes. A first-year starter, Ward is still developing and has given up a few plays this year, but he's also on an island in coverage and has proven himself as a top-tier outside corner in college.
The Packers' may wind up drafting much higher given the injury to Aaron Rodgers, but given the current draft order grabbing Ward is a great fit for value and need.
21. Miami Dolphins (4-3)
The Pick: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
A quarterback for the Dolphins? Hear me out.
Ryan Tannehill is missing the 2017 season with a torn ACL, and he has an out clause in his contract after this year that would allow the Dolphins to void the remaining three years on a deal that looks inflated given his play before the injury. He's an unknown moving forward, and an overpaid one at that.
Remember, mock drafts are what I'm hearing around the NFL. I don't currently have Lamar Jackson ranked as a first-round quarterback, but an executive recently said the league could see Jackson as "a Deshaun Watson with better wheels." Watson, he explained, has been turned loose in Houston to beat teams with a backyard style of football. Jackson would excel in that environment, even if he has work to do as a passer.
The Dolphins have a major decision to make at quarterback after this season. Jackson might be the answer.
22. Atlanta Falcons (4-3)
The Pick: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
The Atlanta Falcons' roster is full of talented young players, which makes it tough to peg where the team will go in the first round. There isn't currently an overwhelming need at any position. That opens the door for a "best player available" pick.
Clemson's Clelin Ferrell ranks as a top-20 player in this draft despite a slow start to the season. He changed that with a 3.5-sack game against Syracuse, where he showed the trademark length, speed and ability to convert to power that made him one of the most promising edge-rushers in the 2018 class before the season began.
The Falcons love pass-rushers, and assistant general manager Scott Pioli is well-known for his love of depth on the edge. Combining Ferrell's power with the speed of Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley would make for long Sundays for their NFC South opponents.
23. Carolina Panthers (5-3)
The Pick: OT Orlando Brown, Oklahoma
The Carolina Panthers previously didn't value the offensive line enough to spend early draft picks on the unit. That should change with interim general manager Marty Hurney back running the show after the firing of Dave Gettleman.
The NFL differs from me on Orlando Brown. I see the Oklahoma junior as more of a project and probably a right tackle in the NFL, but the grades I get back from area scouts have the 6'8", 345-pounder as a top-20 pick. Brown, whose dad Orlando Sr. played in the NFL, has pro-caliber size and impressive agility, but his lower-body strength and pass-blocking mechanics are issues on my report card.
The Panthers have had success going against my grade before (Kelvin Benjamin), and Brown could be a steal for a future playoff team as a plug-and-play left tackle.
24. Seattle Seahawks (5-2)
The Pick: OT Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
The Seattle Seahawks may trade for a left tackle before Tuesday's deadline, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. If that doesn't work, the front office should look to the NFL draft given the depth of the tackle class in 2018.
While most fans have probably heard of Connor Williams and Mike McGlinchey, Western Michigan's Chukwuma Okorafor is a potential first-rounder who's currently flying under the radar. That should change if Okorafor has the predraft run I'm expecting at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine.
The Seahawks could look to address their offensive line through free agency or trades, but the smart money is on the first-round target being a pass-blocker.
25. Los Angeles Rams (5-2)
The Pick: CB Tarvarus McFadden, FSU
The Los Angeles Rams are still feeling the effects of Janoris Jenkins' departure in free agency. Even with Trumaine Johnson playing well at cornerback, the secondary is the team's biggest weakness heading into the offseason.
Tarvarus McFadden has NFL size (6'2", 205 lbs) and has shown himself to be an excellent playmaker with eight interceptions in 2016. McFadden's 2017 season hasn't been as outstanding in terms of statistics, but he is still showing the tools and potential to be a future No. 1 cornerback in an NFL defense.
The Rams' quick turnaround in 2017 means a much later pick in the first round, so to find a talent like McFadden still on the board is a potential steal.
28. Buffalo Bills from Chiefs (5-2)
The Pick: DL Dre'Mont Jones, Ohio State
With the pick that became Patrick Mahomes in a 2017 draft-day trade, the Buffalo Bills acquired the Kansas City Chiefs' first-rounder in 2018. With that pick, the team can replace defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, who it sent to Jacksonville in a trade Friday.
Dareus' attitude and work ethic put him on the outs with the Bills' staff, which means his replacement needs to be a high-character worker with no question marks. That's Dre'Mont Jones. The Ohio State junior has NFL size (6'3", 295 lbs) and is an ideal penetrator for Sean McDermott's 4-3 defense.
The Bills may have to look for a quarterback if they let Tyrod Taylor go after this season, and potential trades they make before the deadline could extend their needs. But given their current needs and two first-round picks, Jones is a great addition.
27. Buffalo Bills (5-2)
The Pick: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
With its second pick in the first round, Buffalo can look to improve upon a wide receiver corps that has been cleaned out under the new regime.
Texas A&M's Christian Kirk has legitimate NFL speed and is a dangerous player down the field and with the ball in his hands. Kirk would be a perfect complement opposite the steady Jordan Matthews, and he would give the Bills offense some much-needed speed at receiver.
While the Bills may have to remake their offense depending on which starters they let go or trade before the deadline, their current needs point to a wide receiver being an early target in the offseason.
28. New Orleans Saints (5-2)
The Pick: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Forgotten in the Saints' impressive 2017 season is that Drew Brees will be a free agent after this season. Brees, who will turn 39 in January, can't be considered a long-term solution at quarterback even if he returns next season. And looking at New Orleans' roster, there is no one being groomed to take his place.
That should change. The Saints have drafted well enough on the offensive line and on defense to spend a late first-round pick on a bit of a project at quarterback. Baker Mayfield isn't a conventional pick given his size (6'1"), but his playmaking skill set and leadership are undeniable.
If head coach Sean Payton figures into the long-term plans of the Saints, it's easy to see him loving the way Mayfield plays and how well he'd translate into the New Orleans offense. And while some may not see the Oklahoma quarterback as a first-rounder, it only takes one team.
29. Minnesota Vikings (6-2)
The Pick: S Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
The biggest question mark in the Minnesota Vikings' offseason will be what happens at quarterback. The team has Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum, but Bradford's lingering knee injury and the uncertain status of Bridgewater coming back from a torn ACL and "other structural damage" does make it an unknown moving forward.
With six quarterbacks already off the board in this mock draft, there's no value at passer for the Vikings, but they can take an already amazing defense to another level by selecting Alabama safety Ronnie Harrison to pair with Harrison Smith.
Harrison is a hitter with natural skills as a strong safety but the athleticism to match up with tight ends and running backs in coverage. Because of the Vikings' defensive scheme, versatility is a must, and Harrison fits the mold opposite Smith.
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2)
The Pick: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
The Pittsburgh defense is getting younger and faster, but it needs an infusion of talent and speed across the board.
Alabama's Rashaan Evans is both a great athlete and a fiery, aggressive defender. NFL scouts will love his tools and talent but also his production as the leader of the Alabama front seven. The senior was overshadowed by Reuben Foster before this year, but he has been a standout player and one of college football's best defenders through the first half of the season.
The Pittsburgh offense may need to be rebuilt in the near future given the age of Ben Roethlisberger and the upcoming free agency of Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, but for now, the defense is the way to go in Round 1.
31. New England Patriots (6-2)
The Pick: LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
The New England Patriots defense has struggled all season, and they should focus on adding athletes throughout the front seven during the upcoming offseason. Starting that out with a top-tier athlete in Malik Jefferson would give head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia a matchup nightmare.
Jefferson has been misused at Texas when he's asked to play a true middle linebacker position. His tools and skillset look more like that of a weak-side linebacker who can drop into coverage, rush the quarterback and make plays in the backfield against the run. Jefferson is at his best at Texas when rushing the quarterback.
The Patriots haven't replaced Jamie Collins at linebacker since they shipped him to Cleveland at last year's trade deadline. This could be the answer.
32. Philadelphia Eagles (7-1)
The Pick: CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
The 7-1 Eagles surprisingly have the NFL's best record at midseason, which means they own the 32nd overall pick. The front office could go a number of directions including wide receiver, a younger left tackle or beefing up the secondary.
The best match of value and need is at cornerback, where Colorado's Isaiah Oliver sits on the board. Oliver is a standout man coverage player with the size (6'1", 195 lbs) and speed to be a lockdown player on the outside. With Jalen Mills looking solid at one cornerback spot and Oliver lining up opposite him, the Eagles soon could have one of the NFL's most exciting corner duos.
While the Eagles traded for Ronald Darby earlier this season, he's been injured since Week 1 and will enter the final year of his rookie contract in 2018. It remains to be seen what he can provide this team.
Wide receiver also could be a need, and the team could look at someone like Deon Cain from Clemson, but the Eagles could instead re-sign Alshon Jeffery and head into 2018 with a solid depth chart at that position.