NFL Mock Draft 2018: Predictions for Most-Coveted Prospects

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2017

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18:  Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins communicates to his teammates during the NCAA college football game against the USC Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images)
Josh Lefkowitz/Getty Images

With only one more week remaining in the 2017 regular season, the first round of the 2018 NFL draft is just beginning to come into focus.

Of course, plenty of players will rise and fall on draft boards in the coming months, and there's ample time for general managers to trade up or down the opening 32 picks. At the very least, the draft order will be set when the regular season concludes Sunday.

Although draft season hasn't officially begun, there's more than enough information from which to draw an early sketch of the first round. Below are a mock of the first round and three questions that will linger over the spring.


2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

2. New York Giants: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

4. Cleveland Browns (via Texans): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

6. Denver Broncos: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

7. New York Jets: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

8. San Francisco 49ers: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

9. Chicago Bears: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

10. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

11. Oakland Raiders: Derwin James, S, Florida State

12. Miami Dolphins: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

13. Arizona Cardinals: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

15. Washington Redskins: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, LB, Oklahoma

16. Los Angeles Chargers: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

17. Dallas Cowboys: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

18. Buffalo Bills: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

18. Detroit Lions: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

20. Seattle Seahawks: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

21. Tennessee Titans: Arden Key, DE, LSU

22. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

23. Baltimore Ravens: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

24. Carolina Panthers: Anthony Miller, WR, Memphis

25. Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs): Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

26. New Orleans Saints: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

27. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

28. Los Angeles Rams: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

30. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

31. New England Patriots: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Michael Gallup, WR, Colorado State


Intriguing Questions Approaching Draft Season

Will Josh Rosen Declare for the Draft?

Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The Browns might be so much of a mess they turn Rosen off entirely on the prospect of entering the 2018 draft. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Rosen "has expressed concern about winding up in Cleveland and would rather be with a more stable franchise, such as the Giants."

Schefter added Browns general manager John Dorsey wouldn't hesitate to select Rosen even if the UCLA star made it clear he wants to play elsewhere.

Rosen's concerns are well-founded. Cleveland has become a graveyard for quarterbacks—young and old—and there's every reason to be skeptical about whether Dorsey can turn things around.

Still, the Browns seemingly hold all the cards in this situation.

Rosen has little to gain and everything to lose by returning to UCLA for another year. Not only would he be leaving millions of dollars on the table, but he'd also risk seeing his draft stock slip due to a catastrophic injury or poor performance.

And unlike with Deshaun Watson, there's little reason to expect Rosen to check a national championship off his bucket list with one more season with the Bruins.

There's also the matter of whether waiting a year will change Rosen's situation.

Dan Labbe @dan_labbe

If Josh Rosen thinks waiting a year to enter the draft would help him avoid the Browns, well, I've got news for him.

Patrick Daugherty @RotoPat

The year is 2032. Josh Rosen has decided to stay one more season at UCLA to avoid the Browns for the 14th straight year.

Once Rosen is in the 2018 draft, there's nothing stopping the Browns from selecting him with the first overall pick.

If Rosen refuses to play for the Browns, then a draft-day trade could be a possibility, similar to Eli Manning's move to the New York Giants after the San Diego Chargers selected him first overall.


Do the Cleveland Browns Shake Up the Draft for the Third Straight Year?

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: New General Manager John Dorsey of the Cleveland Browns  is seen with owner Jimmy Haslam before the game against the Green Bay Packers at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Gett
Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Browns weren't averse to moving back in the first round of the draft in the past two seasons. They sent the No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft to the Philadelphia Eagles, and they made a trade with the Houston Texans to offload the No. 12 overall selection in 2017.

Cleveland has two first-round picks and three second-rounders in 2018, which gives Dorsey a lot of flexibility if he wants to mimic the strategy utilized by the previous front-office regime.

Even if the Browns hold onto the top pick, they could send a big ripple over the rest of the draft by giving up the lesser of their two first-round selections, which is the fourth pick based on the NFL's current standings. Cleveland's three second-rounders could allow Dorsey to move back into the first round as well.

Judging by Dorsey's track record, the latter scenario would appear to be the most likely for the Browns.

In his four years with Kansas City, the Chiefs traded their first-round pick on two occasions. They dealt the No. 28 pick to the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 and moved up to the No. 10 pick in 2017 to get Patrick Mahomes.

Throw in the fact the Browns famously could've had either Carson Wentz in 2016 or Watson in 2017 if they had stayed where they were at in the first round, and Cleveland may not be all that active on draft day.

Should Dorsey want to get creative, he could have as big an impact on Day 1 of the 2018 draft as any other general manager.


Will More Wide Receivers Climb Draft Boards?

Michael Wyke/Associated Press

This year's draft class isn't ideal for general managers who hope to find immediate help for their passing games. In his most recent big board, Bleacher Report's Matt Miller ranked two wideouts among his 32 best players: Alabama's Calvin Ridley at No. 15 and SMU's Courtland Sutton at No. 28.

The last time only two wide receivers were selected in the first round was 2010, and 2008 was the last time no receivers were off the board through the first 32 picks. The 2018 draft may earn that distinction.

Even including the likes of James Washington, Michael Gallup and Anthony Miller as possible first-rounders, there isn't that one can't-miss pass-catcher universally regarded as a future Pro Bowler.

After this past season, teams may not be in any hurry to reach for a wideout, either. Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross—the three receivers selected in the first round of the 2017 draft—have combined to catch 44 passes for 462 yards and zero touchdowns.

Cooper Kupp, meanwhile, leads all rookies with 869 receiving yards and appears to be a steal in the third round of the draft.

Going back another year, the New Orleans Saints' Michael Thomas, a second-round pick, was the only rookie to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in 2016, and fifth-rounder Stefon Diggs was second in receiving yards (720) among rookies in 2015.

Until Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott both had huge rookie seasons, the idea of selecting a running back in the first half of the first round was falling out of fashion. In 2012 and 2013, not a single running back went in the first round whatsoever.

But after Elliott's All-Pro season in 2016, Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffery were top-10 picks in 2017, and Saquon Barkley will likely be a top-five selection next spring.

In due time, wide receiver could become the offensive position where teams would be suddenly willing to look past the big names and instead identify undervalued stars in the later rounds.

Assuming he declares, Deon Cain could be a wide receiver who flies somewhat under the radar in this year's draft. His yards per reception have fallen from 19.1 to 12.7, but that's to be expected somewhat with Kelly Bryant replacing Deshaun Watson.

Christian Kirk could be another option on Day 2 or beyond. After registering 1,009 receiving yards as a freshman in 2015, his production has steadily declined. He had 58 receptions for 730 yards and seven touchdowns during the 2017 regular season.

Especially for teams looking for a slot receiver, Kirk could be a good value pick.