2018 NFL Mock Draft: Updated Picks Entering the Last Month of the Regular Season
There's just one month to go in the NFL season, but for teams like the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants, it's been draft season for quite some time.
A mock draft at this time of year is a good way to learn the names of the top prospects in the nation, start to identify the needs of each club and get a look at how those needs and values match up. Of course, firings, hirings and free agency will change things, but this mock draft is an introduction to how the draft landscape looks right now.
Where will the top quarterbacks go? How many running backs can make their way into the first round? Those are the questions that are gaining clarity as the end of the season approaches.
1. Cleveland Browns (0-11)
The Pick: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Though he has shown signs of improvement, there is no way to feel confident DeShone Kizer is the future of the Cleveland Browns. With the No. 1 overall pick and a chance to grab an elite quarterback prospect, the Browns must think long-term and select Josh Rosen.
The hard thing about predicting this pick in November is that there could be an entirely new regime running this team in April. If Sashi Brown and his analytics team are still in place, this pick could be traded to acquire more draft picks. If Hue Jackson is retained as head coach and is given more control over draft picks, he'll hand-pick his next quarterback, who could be Rosen.
The Browns are a mess. The only way they'll ever climb out of the NFL's basement is by nailing the quarterback position.
2. San Francisco 49ers (1-10)
The Pick: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
You might be thinking there is no way Kyle Shanahan would spend a top pick on a running back. I also heard before the 2017 draft that Shanahan wouldn't select defensive players in his first go-round, and then the San Francisco 49ers used their first three picks on defenders Solomon Thomas, Reuben Foster and Ahkello Witherspoon.
The moral of the story? Shanahan isn't the only one making the picks, and we shouldn't get too caught up in the past. Each draft class is unique. Penn State running back Saquon Barkley is very unique. Not only would he be a perfect fit in Shanahan's offense, but he's also the kind of high-character leader with whom general manager John Lynch can fall in love.
Barkley paired with Jimmy Garoppolo would give Shanahan the balance he craves. Barkley can also be the type of back Devonta Freeman was in Atlanta given his inside-outside running ability and what he adds in the passing game.
3. New York Giants (2-9)
The Pick: QB Sam Darnold, USC
The Eli Manning era is nearing it's end, and the New York Giants might have a new general manager and head coach to go with a new quarterback. Even after it drafted Davis Webb in the third round in 2017, if the team is drafting in the top five in 2018, the front office must thoroughly investigate the quarterback prospects to prepare for life after Eli.
Darnold has had his struggles this year, but many NFL scouts to whom I talk believe those are a byproduct of a bad coaching staff, poor wide receivers and the junior quarterback's trying to do too much on a poor team. Darnold's accuracy, poise and ability to make plays late in games still makes him one of the best players in this draft class.
Drafting Darnold won't fill big-time needs or make this team five wins better next year, but it will set the Giants up for long-term success.
4. Denver Broncos (3-8)
The Pick: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
You might not think Josh Allen is worth a top-five selection, but once NFL scouts get a look at him in workouts and interviews, his stock will solidify in the top 10. And don't be surprised if Denver Broncos general manager John Elway sees a lot of his younger self in the strong-armed, athletic Wyoming quarterback.
Allen has been out with a strained AC joint in his throwing shoulder, but his goal should be to get healthy for the Senior Bowl in late January. He is an underclassman but is scheduled to graduate in December. That makes him eligible to participate in Mobile, Alabama. If Allen's stock isn't high enough already, it will be when he completes that week in front of NFL scouts and general managers.
This would be a bit of a gamble for Elway, but he has to be looking at his offense and wondering what went wrong. Adding Allen would give the Broncos the football IQ and athleticism at quarterback that can open up the offense.
5. Indianapolis Colts (3-8)
The Pick: EDGE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard has remade the team in his image by trading away players like Phillip Dorsett and cutting Vontae Davis. Soon he'll be charged with improving a roster that was never developed under the former regime.
The priority for Ballard and Co. will be to improve the offensive line and pass rush. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo was apparently on the trading block before the deadline, according to an NFL executive with whom I spoke, which makes you think he's not in the team's long-term plans. And while Texas left tackle Connor Williams has to be considered here, I see Ballard going with a defender to bolster a unit that's forever been awful.
Bradley Chubb has the skills to play in a 4-3 or 3-4, which is important since we don't know who the Colts head coach will be in 2018. At 275 pounds, Chubb has impressive power and the agility to make plays standing up. He's the type of producer and athlete Ballard will want to grab to kick off his 2018 draft.
6. Chicago Bears (3-8)
The Pick: OT Connor Williams, Texas
The Chicago Bears gave left tackle Charles Leno Jr. a pay raise in August, and he is a solid building block for the future, but with an early pick and Texas' Connor Williams on the board, they should make the selection and move Leno to right tackle.
Williams looked fantastic in his return to action against West Virginia last weekend after he'd been out since Week 3 with a sprained MCL and PCL and torn meniscus, according to SI.com's Bruce Feldman. He's the type of athlete who can dominate on the edge but has also shown the mean streak and instincts needed to step right into an NFL offense.
Wide receiver is no doubt a bigger need for the Bears, but there isn't a player at that position who's valued at this spot. Drafting Williams will give Chicago a potential strength on the offensive line, which is important to the development of Mitch Trubisky at quarterback. Get the left tackle now and a wide receiver like Simmie Cobbs Jr. in Round 2.
7. New York Jets (4-7)
The Pick: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Is this too early for Baker Mayfield? Not if he becomes the answer at quarterback for the New York Jets.
Mayfield is a unique prospect. He's small (6'1", 220 lbs), fiery, loud on the field and has a massive chip on his shoulder that can cause some problems like what happened against Kansas. But he's also a poised player who creates with his arm and legs and can be the type of leader an entire team will follow.
Some will brush Mayfield aside because he's too short, because he plays in a spread offense or because he's facing Big 12 defenses each week. I'm not worried about his height or scheme because I've seen him operate from inside the pocket. And if you can carve up Ohio State—a team loaded with future NFL talent on defense—you're good enough for me.
8. Miami Dolphins (4-7)
The Pick: S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
Minkah Fitzpatrick is one of the best players in the entire 2018 draft, but the way teams value the safety position could push him down the board. If so, the Miami Dolphins will be in an excellent position to draft a dynamic safety with the tools to be a Jamal Adams-like presence.
Fitzpatrick can play free safety at a high level in the NFL, and there may even be teams that view him as a cornerback given his experience there early in his Alabama career. I like his range, football IQ and ability to make plays all over the field—and wouldn't lock him into one spot at cornerback.
As for athleticism, production and character, Fitzpatrick is one of the cleanest prospects you'll see in 2018.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)
The Pick: SS Ronnie Harrison, Alabama
Alabama's Ronnie Harrison sometimes gets lost in all the talk about Rashaan Evans and Minkah Fitzpatrick, but he's one of my favorite players in this class. At 6'3", 214 pounds, he is like Kam Chancellor. And that's who he can be in the NFL, too.
A lot needs to change for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Adding a force at safety that opposing teams have to fear would be great not only on the field but also for the culture of the defense. Not since John Lynch was back there roaming the middle of the field has Tampa had a safety that opposing teams feared. Harrison can be that guy.
The Buccaneers have other needs, such as along the offensive and defensive lines, but Harrison is a great match of value and need.
10. Cleveland (from Houston 4-6)
The Pick: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
After grabbing a quarterback early, the Cleveland Browns must use their second first-rounder to shore up the rest of the offense. No matter who is back there throwing passes, they deserve a better target than Kenny Britt and the massive question mark that is Josh Gordon. Calvin Ridley could step into the offense and be the best receiver on the roster.
At 6'1", 190 pounds, Ridley doesn't have imposing size, but he's a slippery route-runner with excellent burst in the open field and the hips to leave defenders on breaking routes. He's also a sure-handed pass-catcher and has the tools to be an X receiver. That type of talent is lacking on this team.
It wouldn't be a surprise if the Browns regime is still in place and trades this pick, but this is what should happen.
11. Los Angeles Chargers (5-6)
The Pick: S Derwin James, FSU
The safety class is impressive, and Florida State's Derwin James has been heating up at the right time, coming back from a knee injury that cost him almost all of the 2016 season.
James was overhyped by analysts in the summer, and folks had supersize expectations for him. He's not the second coming of Sean Taylor, but he's a better player than Jabrill Peppers was at Michigan last year. James will also test well at the Scouting Combine and should perform off the charts in interviews.
The Los Angeles Chargers secondary has held together well but could use an upgrade at strong safety—especially if Gus Bradley is still the coordinator next year.
12. Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)
The Pick: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Drafting an offensive guard in the early stages of Round 1 isn't the most exciting move, but Quenton Nelson isn't your average guard. He's a plug-and-play Pro Bowler with the skills to be an All-Pro early in his career. Nelson, like Zack Martin or Brandon Scherff, can step right in and change an offense with his ability in the running and passing games.
The Cincinnati Bengals struck out in their attempt to remake the offensive line by getting younger with Jake Fisher and Cedric Ogbuehi at tackle and allowing right guard Kevin Zeitler to leave in free agency. And while Fisher and Ogbuehi have time to develop into nice players, the Bengals need a strong foundation to build around. That's Nelson.
13. Arizona Cardinals (5-6)
The Pick: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
This might seem early for a cornerback, but Ohio State's Denzel Ward is likely to shoot up boards once teams get to interview him and see how well he'll test at the Scouting Combine. And it's unlikely the Arizona Cardinals would pull the trigger on Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph because head coach Bruce Arians has avoided rookie quarterbacks in the past.
Ward is a physical, feisty cornerback who can excel while playing near the line of scrimmage or in off coverage. He'd be a great fit opposite Patrick Peterson and when teamed up with Budda Baker would give this team a young identity in the secondary moving forward.
Based on the Cardinals' needs and the values on the board, this is the best pick for Arizona.
14. Dallas Cowboys (5-6)
The Pick: EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
The Dallas Cowboys defense needs a major shakeup in the front seven, with a focus on more speed at linebacker and in the pass rush. There are some building blocks in Maliek Collins, Taco Charlton and Jaylon Smith, and soon-to-be free-agent defensive end Demarcus Lawrence is having a career year, but there still needs to be more talent.
Harold Landry is a fantastic edge-rusher with the speed and agility to dip and bend around the corner. At 6'3", 250 pounds, he might not fit the size profile every scout likes, but has the quickness to be a threat off the right side.
It wouldn't be a shock if Dallas picked a wide receiver, but the priority should be on defense.
15. Washington (5-6)
The Pick: RB Derrius Guice, LSU
If Washington can hold on to quarterback Kirk Cousins, a powerful running back with the speed to break open defenses is exactly what it would need. Cousins and Derrius Guice together behind a really good offensive line and with a wide receiver corps that is coming together nicely would make this offense terrifying in 2018.
Guice missed a game-and-a-half in 2017 to a knee injury but also came back strong, with the same violent running style and speed he showed when he replaced Leonard Fournette last season. And while he hasn't been a major asset in the passing game at LSU, he's shown he can be a three-down player with his hands and blocking skills.
16. Green Bay Packers (5-6)
The Pick: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
The Green Bay secondary will need upgrades after this season even though the team drafted Kevin King in the second round in 2017. Iowa's Josh Jackson, the top-ranked cornerback on my big board, would be an ideal fit given his playmaking ability and skills on the outside.
Jackson has the eyes to locate the ball and the hips to turn and run with wide receivers. Drafting another outside cornerback would also allow the team to keep Damarious Randall in the slot, where he's played his best football. Having King and Jackson on the edge would give Green Bay the ability to man up in coverage and allow the front seven to be much more aggressive in going after the quarterback.
17. Oakland Raiders (5-6)
The Pick: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
You can't watch an Oakland Raiders game without getting frustrated by the lack of coverage from their linebackers and safeties. Tight ends run wild against this defense and have for some time. Head coach Jack Del Rio—who was an All-American linebacker in college—has to press the issue and get an upgrade at middle linebacker.
Rashaan Evans is a fantastic three-down player. He has the range and instincts to attack against the run or drop into coverage. And while Oakland did sign NaVorro Bowman, drafting Evans would be like getting a 21-year-old version of the aging linebacker.
The Raiders have needs at left tackle and all over the defense, but this is the type of selection that will set the unit up for the next decade.
18. Baltimore Ravens (5-5)
The Pick: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
The Baltimore Ravens have missed on wide receivers as of late, and now the offense needs an upgrade on the outside and also a young player around which it can be retooled. SMU's Courtland Sutton has the size (6'4", 216 lbs) and ability to play the ball above the field and to become Joe Flacco's best friend.
Sutton may end up a top-10 pick, but there are concerns about his level of competition and top-end speed. He'll have a great chance to show his ability at the Senior Bowl and could start to rise up draft boards in Mobile, Alabama.
The Ravens spent big money to build their defense last year and have some nice young players, which will allow the front office to prioritize the offense.
19. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City 6-5)
The Pick: QB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
The Buffalo Bills mishandled their quarterback situation by temporarily benching Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman (who went out and threw five interceptions in a half of football). With it now clear that the team doesn't see Taylor as the future at quarterback, it's time to look at options for the 2018 offseason.
Mason Rudolph isn't ranked this highly on my draft board but fits what the Bills are doing. He's a pocket passer with accuracy and anticipation but doesn't offer much as a runner. In most ways, he's the opposite of Taylor, which is also why the pick isn't Lamar Jackson.
The Bills have two picks in the first round, which will free them up to be aggressive in going after a quarterback.
20. Detroit Lions (6-5)
The Pick: DL Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
The middle of the Detroit Lions defense needs an influx of talent—even with A'Shawn Robinson already there as a promising talent. Adding Da'Ron Payne, an elite athlete from Alabama with the upside to be a premier pass-rusher and run defender, would give the line a strength from which to build out. And given general manager Bob Quinn's education as a team-builder in New England, it's likely he'll favor Alabama prospects and the idea of building his team from the inside out.
Payne doesn't have the amazing numbers you might expect from a potential first-round pick, but he makes an impact on every down. He can penetrate the middle of the line and is an excellent hustle player who will chase down running quarterbacks and screen plays. He's not Ndamukong Suh but could be a foundational building block as a solid, no-nonsense player.
21. Buffalo Bills (6-5)
The Pick: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
Sean McDermott and Co. have done quick work remaking the Buffalo Bills in their image. That will extend to the offseason, when they'll be expected to address the quarterback position and offensive line. The Bills put Cordy Glenn on the trading block before the deadline, so it's obvious they would like to improve at offensive tackle.
Mike McGlinchey isn't the flashiest prospect, and he struggled against speed rushers from Georgia and Miami, but he is solid. Much like Jack Conklin, he may be best served moving to right tackle in the NFL, but he's a plug-and-play type with a high floor.
After grabbing a quarterback, the Bills could look to the interior offensive line or the defensive front seven, but McGlinchey would be the best impact player they can grab.
22. Jacksonville Jaguars (7-4)
The Pick: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Let's all agree on something: Blake Bortles is not the Jacksonville Jaguars' future at quarterback. No matter how many games the Jaguars win this year, it's obvious they're winning in spite of Bortles and not because of him. Now that we have that out of the way, the biggest job for Tom Coughlin, David Caldwell and Doug Marrone this offseason will be identifying a quarterback of the future.
Lamar Jackson doesn't seem to fit what Coughlin looks for based on Coughlin's time in New York with Eli Manning and the type of quarterbacks the Giants drafted, but the front office has to recognize the game-changing talent Jackson brings to the table as a passer and runner. He's electric, and while he does need time to develop as a passer, Jacksonville has Bortles for one more season and can give Jackson the time and structure needed to begin his transition to the NFL.
The Jaguars may look at the quarterback class and opt to go after Tyrod Taylor, Alex Smith or Kirk Cousins in free agency, but for now, the best value fit is Jackson.
23. Tennessee Titans (7-4)
The Pick: EDGE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
The Tennessee Titans' priorities this offseason should be to find a pass rush and get younger on defense. With Kevin Dodd looking more and more like a bust and no young pass-rusher emerging on the edge, the team's first pick should be used to improve the outside rush.
Clelin Ferrell may scare some fans because, like Dodd, he's from Clemson, but he's a different athlete with the bend and body to play with his hand in the dirt or standing up off the edge. Ferrell has been hot and cold this year in terms of production, but he has all the tools to make a major impact as an edge-rusher.
24. Seattle Seahawks (7-4)
The Pick: CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
Is it time to think about life after Richard Sherman?
Sherman, who is out with an Achilles injury, will turn 30 this offseason and is nearing that cliff where cornerbacks tend to drop off. Sherman's game isn't based on speed, so he might have more lasting power than others, but the Seattle Seahawks still need to think about getting younger in the secondary.
A third-rounder in 2017, Shaquill Griffin is a nice player and has the upside to be a longtime starter on one side. Adding a youngster opposite him would be the smart move after the team checked off its need at left tackle by trading for Duane Brown.
Colorado's Isaiah Oliver has the length, toughness and instincts to play in the Seattle defense. He's been fantastic this season, his first as a full-time starter, and repeatedly shows the tools needed to be a good NFL cornerback.
25. Atlanta Falcons (7-4)
The Pick: DL Christian Wilkins, Clemson
The Atlanta Falcons could go a number of directions in Round 1, but the smart move would be to continue to build up a defensive line and pass rush that's unstoppable. If 2017 first-rounder Takkarist McKinley lives up to his potential and Christian Wilkins can be added into the fold in the 2018 draft, this unit will be the NFL's best.
Wilkins doesn't make a ton of splashy plays at defensive tackle but is a steady, solid contributor with the athleticism to be more productive in the NFL. He has the first step and motor to be a persistent pass-rusher and has shown the versatility to play defensive end if need be. He could move up and down the line in Atlanta and will give the team its best defensive tackle prospect.
26. Los Angeles Rams (8-3)
The Pick: EDGE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
Build the defense. That should be the focus this offseason after the Los Angeles Rams spent the 2017 offseason fixing the offense and adding weapons and protection for Jared Goff. To compete in the NFC West long-term and become a Super Bowl contender, the defense has to catch up to the offense.
Defensive end Sam Hubbard is a stud pass-rusher from Ohio State. He is strong, smart, agile and has a nonstop motor to chase down quarterbacks. He's also stout enough to hold his ground against the run and be a three-down defender. Another plus: Hubbard is athletic enough to play either standing up or with his hand in the dirt. Put him next to Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, and NFL offensive lines will be in trouble.
The Rams might look to improve their offensive line or secondary with this selection, but for Wade Phillips' defense, adding a young pass-rusher would be the best pick.
27. Carolina Panthers (8-3)
The Pick: WR Christian Kirk, Texas A&M
Give Cam Newton some speed at wide receiver.
The Carolina Panthers offense was at its best when Ted Ginn Jr. was streaking down the field and keeping safeties out of the box. Having a fast receiver not only allowed Newton to use his arm strength, but it also required safeties to respect the deep routes. That means playing farther off the ball. And that means Newton had more room to run.
At 5'11", 200 pounds, Christian Kirk is tailor-made for this offense with his speed and route-running skills. The Panthers drafted Curtis Samuel in 2017, but Kirk is more of a receiver, with the hands and instincts to be a starter on the outside who can move into the slot for matchups. It won't be a surprise if Carolina fans think they have another Steve Smith Sr. in Kirk.
28. New Orleans Saints (8-3)
The Pick: TE Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State
It was rumored at the trade deadline that the New Orleans Saints were interested in tight end Jimmy Graham. That didn't happen, which means the Saints still have a need at the position. South Dakota State tight end Dallas Goedert might be flying under the radar now, but he's like a young Travis Kelce with his athleticism and ability to dominate defenses up the seam.
New Orleans may look to draft a quarterback with Drew Brees set to be a free agent and already 38 years old, but there isn't a value on the board worthy of selection. The Saints do need a plan for the future but could look to pick a quarterback in subsequent rounds.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-2)
The Pick: LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
I've talked with many Pittsburgh Steelers fans who don't think linebacker is a need for the team. I disagree. Vince Williams is fine, but Malik Jefferson has a chance to be special. Any time you can get faster, younger and better at a position, you have to do it. Even if it's not the No. 1 need on your board.
Jefferson has had his best season yet at Texas in 2017, showing his range and versatility both in the middle of the field and as a pass-rusher. Some scouts to whom I've spoken say his best position in the NFL might be edge-rusher, but Pittsburgh could use his unique athleticism and skill set to simply attack offenses. Jefferson, who might run a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine, would be the perfect player to spy athletic quarterbacks or take away tight ends up the seam.
30. Minnesota Vikings (9-2)
The Pick: DL Dre'Mont Jones, Ohio State
The Minnesota Vikings are in a great position for the future with young stars on offense and defense. General manager Rick Spielman must think about reloading the team as players age and leave through free agency. One such area where you can never have too many talented players is the defensive line.
Dre'Mont Jones might be drafted much sooner than this in April. He's a penetrator as a pass-rusher but has also shown the discipline to play gap-assignment football and shut down the run in the middle of the defensive line. And at only 20 years old, he's still learning and growing. That's great news for Minnesota.
There will be a temptation to pick a quarterback if the team doesn't keep Teddy Bridgewater, but there should be no pressure to reach for a passer who isn't a value at this spot.
31. New England Patriots (9-2)
The Pick: DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan
The New England Patriots defense has perfected bending but not breaking this season, but something has to give. Bill Belichick, who owns two picks in the top 34 selections thanks to his trade with the San Francisco 49ers, can use that draft capital to rebuild the defense.
Maurice Hurst is underrated. He's impressive when attacking gaps and can get into the backfield to make plays as a pass-rusher or run defender. He might be overshadowed by underclassman teammate Rashan Gary, but Hurst is arguably the best draft-eligible defensive tackle in the nation. A strong showing at the Scouting Combine could push him out of the reach of the Patriots.
32. Philadelphia Eagles (10-1)
The Pick: WR Deon Cain, Clemson
Everything executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman has done lately has worked, and now the Philadelphia Eagles are set up for a successful future. One area where they might want to add young talent is wide receiver since they traded Jordan Matthews.
Clemson's Deon Cain hasn't produced amazing numbers this season, but that's partially due to quarterback Kelly Bryant's play. Cain still has the speed to stretch a defense and the route-running to shake defenders. That and his size (6'1", 190 lbs) would be a perfect fit with Nelson Agholor and give the team flexibility in light of Torrey Smith's age (28) and Alshon Jeffery's upcoming free agency.