2018 NFL Mock Draft: B/R's Post-Regular Season PredictionsJanuary 1, 2018
2018 NFL Mock Draft: B/R's Post-Regular Season Predictions
The NFL regular season is complete, and 20 teams are now turning their immediate attention to the NFL draft. General managers gaze upon the April event and the available talent like Sauron searching for the One Ring.
As postseason teams prepare for their next opponents, the remaining franchises hope to find answers to crucial questions.
How will elite prospects perform during the remaining bowl games? How many of the top underclassmen will declare? Will the upperclassmen accept All-Star invites, and how will they perform?
All of these queries will be answered in the next 30 days.
Even so, plenty of work has already been done with scouts zigzagging across the country during the past five months. Most of the performances have been evaluated, and with extensive background research ongoing, organizations' initial draft boards are in place.
The needs of each team are obvious after a strenuous 16-game schedule. Click through to see our mock draft with the NFL regular season complete.
1. Cleveland Browns
The Pick: QB Sam Darnold, USC
Drama surrounds the first pick since the Cleveland Browns desperately need a quarterback, while one of the top options doesn't necessarily want to play for the organization.
"I'd rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher at the wrong team," UCLA's Josh Rosen admitted, per ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss.
USC's Sam Darnold doesn't have the same qualms.
"To be the No. 1 pick, that would be so special," the 20-year-old signal-caller said, per the Toledo Blade's Nick Piotrowicz.
Darnold's performance during the 24-7 Cotton Bowl loss to the Ohio State Buckeyes didn't impress (26-of-45, 356 yards, 1 TD), but his long-term potential keeps him in the No. 1 overall conversation. Of course, his turnovers are a concern. However, Darnold's career 2.6 interception percentage is lower than or equal to the college marks of Eli Manning (2.6), Carson Palmer (3.1), Matthew Stafford (5.9) and Jameis Winston (3.3), who were all selected No. 1 overall.
Cleveland's despair is well-documented. DeShone Kizer didn't prove himself worthy of being the team's franchise quarterback. New general manager John Dorsey must identify his top QB prospect and select him. The team will also need a veteran in 2018 while Darnold develops. His upside is too immense to ignore, though.
2. New York Giants
The Pick: QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Rosen's attempt to dictate where he wants to play could work in his favor. The New York Giants are a stable organization compared to the Cleveland Browns and should be a preferred destination.
However, the Giants must decide whether they'll move forward with Eli Manning this offseason.
"Eli and I are going to talk," new general manager Dave Gettleman said, per NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano. "If what I saw in Philadelphia was not a mirage, and I don't believe it was, then we'll keep moving."
Despite Manning's 434-yard, three-touchdown performance vs. Philadelphia in Week 15, Gettleman didn't state whether the Giants are set at quarterback. He'll need a succession plan even if Manning returns for a 15th season, though.
Rosen is the class' most natural passer and has ample arm talent. He spins the ball as well as any prospect in recent memory and can complete passes into the tightest windows. However, he's not a slam dunk prospect due to his injury history (concussions and shoulder surgery) and lack of pocket mobility.
An interesting evaluation will continue over the next few months with Rosen at the forefront of many conversations because of his natural talent; yet questions persist about his attitude and durability.
3. Indianapolis Colts
The Pick: DE Bradley Chubb, NC State
The Indianapolis Colts could land the class' No. 1 overall talent regardless of position, Bradley Chubb, since the Browns and Giants will consider quarterbacks with the first two picks. The NC State prospect is a disruptive, productive defensive end with the potential to become a franchise building block.
The 6'4", 275-pounder is a well-rounded defender who excels against the run and at rushing the passer.
Chubb has the size and strength to consistently set the edge. He works through blocks and serves as a disruptive presence. As a result, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year finished second in major college football with 25 tackles for loss.
Chubb registered 10 sacks, too. He's not quite as explosive or flexible as last year's No. 1 pick, Myles Garrett, but Chubb's motor runs hot at all times, and he dogs opposing quarterbacks.
The Colts rank among the league's worst teams with only 25 sacks. Chubb is a natural fit—no matter who Indianapolis' next head coach is and what scheme he employs.
4. Cleveland (from Houston)
The Pick: CB/S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
The 0-16 Cleveland Browns must capitalize on the massive draft capital the previous front office acquired. Quarterback comes first at No. 1 overall. At No. 4, Dorsey could go in numerous directions, but the idea of building a promising young defense into a dominant one should take priority.
Acquiring an offensive weapon here would be an obvious albeit short-sighted move. The 2017 running back class is stacked with talent, and starting-caliber prospects will be available on Day 2. Penn State's Saquon Barkley would be a great addition wouldn't present the best overall value.
Instead, Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick can be a cornerstone at a premium position. He's a versatile piece who fits today's NFL. He led the Crimson Tide with six interceptions as a cornerback in 2016 before moving to free safety this season.
Fitzpatrick's competitive nature is every bit as important in building a winning culture.
"I just think if you're going to do something, you should be great," the Jim Thorpe and Chuck Bednarik Award winner said, per SI.com's Stephanie Apstein.
5. Denver Broncos
The Pick: RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
Saquon Barkley's star lost some luster when the Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan State Spartans and Rutgers Scarlet Knights held the Nittany Lions running back to a combined 142 yards on 49 carries. However, his 137-yard performance against the Washington Huskies in the 35-28 Fiesta Bowl win turned heads.
Once considered the No. 1 overall talent, Barkley will likely have to wait a bit to hear his name called. Even so, he's an elite prospect, albeit at a lesser-valued position.
Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette proved top-10 backs can have a massive impact. Barkley presents the same potential. It just has to be in the right situation where a team can invest such a valuable pick on a ball-carrier.
The Denver Broncos don't know who their starting quarterback will be next season, but they can complement an already-dominant defense with an overwhelming run game. C.J. Anderson is a 1,000-yard back and only 26 years old. Barkley isn't just a special runner, though. He's a legitimate receiving option and a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
He's the catalyst the Broncos need after a disappointing 2017.
6. New York Jets
The Pick: QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Baker Mayfield is too short. The Big 12 Conference doesn't play defense. Lincoln Riley's system is quarterback-friendly. Mayfield has all day to throw behind the Oklahoma Sooners' talented offensive front. He has an attitude problem. Let's not forget the coup de grace of lazy arguments: He's Johnny Manziel all over again.
Every excuse will be made for why the 6'1", 220-pound Mayfield can't succeed in the NFL. Maybe, just maybe, everyone should look at what he did in 2017 and realize he was college football's best quarterback.
Of course, a Heisman Trophy, which Mayfield won this season, doesn't translate to the professional ranks. Nor should Mayfield's talent be judged by that standard. Instead, his exceptional ball placement and overall accuracy to all three levels of the field should take priority. Furthermore, he improved as a senior with his decision-making from the pocket and increased arm strength.
It's hard to poke holes in Mayfield's game based on his 2017 play. Of course, his less-than-ideal measurables will hold him back to a degree, but he should be in the conversation as the top quarterback prospect based on his play.
The New York Jets, meanwhile, are an ideal landing spot, because they've already tweaked the offense to more of a spread scheme under offensive coordinator John Morton and badly need a franchise signal-caller.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Pick: OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
Selecting a guard among the top-10 selections may be sacrilege to some, but a strict adherence to positional value doesn't take into account an individual's dominance.
Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson is arguably the best available prospect. He doesn't play a premium position, though. The latter shouldn't matter since he's projected as an instant All-Pro. According to one anonymous NFL executive, per SI.com's Albert Breer, Nelson is a better overall talent than fellow Notre Dame alum Zack Martin, who made the Pro Bowl in each of his first four seasons and earned two All-Pro nods.
Nelson is overwhelming at the point of attack, and his level of physicality is rare. Furthermore, he's a well-coached technician and constantly looks for a challenge.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers already invested heavily in their skill positions with quarterback Jameis Winston, tight end O.J. Howard and wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. Although, the offense didn't realize its potential this season due to a ramshackle offensive line. Nelson can form a strong left side and provide a stout pocket alongside Donovan Smith.
8. Chicago Bears
The Pick: CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
The Chicago Bears desperately need to add offensive talent around quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, but the organization can't force a pick. Instead, it should select a legitimate top-10 talent.
Ohio State's Denzel Ward is college football's smoothest cover corner. He started slowly in 2017—his first season as a full-time starter—before building his confidence and shutting down wide receivers. Ward's hip flexibility stands out among his contemporaries. The All-American is fluid in his pedal, unlocks his hips and can run with any receiver.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ward allowed a 38.2 percent catch rate. His combined 27 pass breakups and deflections led Ohio State by a large margin, too.
The Bears are set at cornerback on one side with Kyle Fuller. He and Ward can form a sensational young duo with Chicago well on its way toward a dominant defense.
9. San Francisco 49ers
The Pick: WR Courtland Sutton, SMU
The hard part is over for the San Francisco 49ers, because the organization already found its franchise quarterback in Jimmy Garoppolo. The next step is surrounding the 26-year-old gunslinger with weapons that'll maximize the offense's effectiveness.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme places a heavy emphasis on the X-receiver. He built his career calling plays for Andre Johnson in Houston and Julio Jones in Atlanta. The 49ers lack a similar physical presence, though.
At 6'4" and a sculpted 216 pounds, SMU's Courtland Sutton is a different specimen than most collegiate receivers and defensive backs. His size, body control and ability to create after the catch jumps out at anyone who watches the Mustangs. He's been quite productive, too, with 193 receptions for 3,193 yards and 31 touchdowns over the last three seasons.
The former basketball player's performance during the athletic portion of the NFL Scouting Combine should drive his value into the top 10 where the 49ers can select Garoppolo's go-to target.
10. Oakland Raiders
The Pick: LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
The Oakland Raiders decided not to address their linebacker need this past offseason and left a massive void in the middle of the defense. Without a field general, the Raiders became rudderless on that side of the ball, and it cost the coaching staff its jobs.
NaVorro Bowman did his best to save the situation, but the eighth-year veteran will be a free agent after this season. A permanent solution and a solidifying presence are needed to bring Oakland's defense together and fully exploit some of the talent already on the roster.
Georgia's Roquan Smith is a sideline-to-sideline demon. This year's Butkus Award winner led Georgia with 113 total tackles, 5.5 sacks and 17 more quarterback hits.
The 225-pound defender fits today's game. Smith isn't just a downhill thumper who arrives with nasty intentions. His coverage range is astounding as well. No, he won't take on bigger offensive linemen with much success, but he'll find ways to make plays all over the field.
11. Miami Dolphins
The Pick: RB Derrius Guice, LSU
Head coach Adam Gase built a playoff contender during his first year with the Miami Dolphins by riding a physical ground game in 2016. Jay Ajayi became a star in the system, but the organization traded its feature back to the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 31.
Kenyan Drake impressed with a pair of 100-yard games as the starter but has been less effective in recent weeks.
LSU's Derrius Guice has the potential to be an NFL workhorse, though, while Drake is better in a complementary role. The 218-pound Guice wasn't as effective in 2017 (1,153 rushing yards, 11 TDs prior to the Citrus Bowl) compared to 2016 (1,387 yards, 15 TDs) due to injuries. Once healthy, he rushed for 718 yards during his final five contests against SEC competition.
Drake and Guice have the potential to form an outstanding one-two punch and re-establish Miami as a postseason contender. Thunder, feel the thunder. Lightning, then the thunder, thunder.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
The Pick: OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
In 2006, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted a left tackle in the second round. He wasn't the flashiest or most athletic blocker. Andrew Whitworth went to work every day and provided a steadying force along the Bengals offensive line for the next 11 seasons.
Cincinnati has sorely missed Whitworth since he signed with the Rams before the 2017 season.
Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey is built in the same mold as the 6'7", 333-pound Whitworth. He won't be the best overall athlete nor the biggest nor strongest when prospects test at the combine. But he knows how to play the position and did so at a high level for the past three seasons.
Too much emphasis is placed on raw physical tools when repeatable technique is every bit as important for an offensive lineman. The 6'8", 315-pound blocker has been well-coached and can be a reliable presence on Andy Dalton's back side.
13. Washington Redskins
The Pick: S Derwin James, Florida State
Florida State's Derwin James is a defensive playmaker and a standout athlete. Don't fret about what position he plays.
"He's pretty-looking. He's got one of those body types where you could play him at about seven different positions," an anonymous scout told NFL.com's Chase Goodbread. "He looks most like a strong safety, but he's got the frame to put weight on and be a linebacker, he could be a huge corner. He looks kind of like what Patrick Peterson was coming out. Just a great-looking frame."
The Seminoles coaching staff wanted James in position to make more plays this fall and used him as a box defender. At 6'3" and 215 pounds, he could develop into a linebacker. But this possibility takes away his greatest asset—which is his versatility.
James has the athleticism to cover tight ends, slot receivers and wide receivers. His speed should allow him to play the deep third, too. The first-round talent can join D.J. Swearinger as interchangeable pieces in the Washington Redskins defensive backfield.
14. Green Bay Packers
The Pick: WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
A revamped Green Bay Packers wide receiver corps appears to be on its way.
Davante Adams is the team's No. 1 target, and the organization recently rewarded him with a four-year, $58 million contract extension. Jordy Nelson is 32 years old and not the same player he once was. Randall Cobb is a likely cap casualty. Jeff Janis is a free agent after the season.
Due to all the possible movement, the unit needs a talent infusion.
Alabama's Calvin Ridley displays exceptional short-area quickness and ability to create after the catch. His speed and athleticism allow him to do some of the same things Nelson and Cobb once did within the Packers' scheme.
Today's game is built around the ability to create mismatches. Ridley may not be the most productive target, having played in Alabama's run-first offense, but his ability to create separation with his stellar route running and agility make him exceedingly difficult to cover—whether he's lined up wide or in the slot.
15. Arizona Cardinals
The Pick: CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
Cornerbacks always rise during the draft process. A few may not be considered elite talents in January, but they will be when April rolls around.
Iowa's Josh Jackson is the most obvious candidate to rise from relative obscurity into top-15 consideration. He started one game during his first three years on campus before developing into college football's premier ball hawk.
Jackson presents the two most crucial traits NFL teams want from corners: length and ball skills. The 6'1" defensive back led major college football with eight interceptions and 26 passes defended. His one-handed snag against the Ohio State Buckeyes on Nov. 4 may have been college football's play of the season.
The Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year also likes to stick his nose into the run game and finished fifth among Hawkeyes with 34 solo tackles.
Marshon Lattimore emerged a year ago to become the 2017 class' top cornerback prospect after only one full season as a starter. Jackson has a chance to do the same while filling a major hole opposite Patrick Peterson for the Arizona Cardinals.
16. Baltimore Ravens
The Pick: WR James Washington, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State's James Washington entered the year as the top wide receiver prospect. SMU's Courtland Sutton and Alabama's Calvin Ridley will likely come off the board first, but Washington still impresses with his ability to stretch the field and his overall production.
The Fred Biletnikoff Award winner led major college football with 1,549 receiving yards. Since the start of the 2015 campaign, Washington has amassed 198 receptions for 4,016 yards and 33 touchdowns.
The six-foot target eats up defensive backs' cushions to consistently work his way open on deep routes. His 20.9 yards per reception ranked second among all receivers with 35 or more catches this season. Washington averaged 19.8 yards per catch during his four-year career.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has one of the game's best deep arms, which should maximize Washington's talent. The rookie would replace Mike Wallace, who is a free agent.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
The Pick: DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
The Los Angeles Chargers own the NFL's second-worst run defense. Brandon Mebane and Corey Liuget are not stout enough at the point of attack.
Clemson's Christian Wilkins can provide a different aspect to the defensive tackle position. He may not be space-eater, but he is an explosive upfield penetrator.
The 6'4", 300-pound defensive lineman runs a 4.80 40-yard dash with a 1.62-second 10-yard split, according to SI.com's Bruce Feldman. Wilkins' first-step quickness shows up during games, as he's recorded 21.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks and 30 quarterback pressures during the last two seasons.
Wilkins also provides defensive front flexibility. He can start at both defensive tackle and base end. This will allow the Chargers to move Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram all over the formation and make Los Angeles' defensive line nearly impossible to block.
18. Seattle Seahawks
The Pick: OT Connor Williams
The Seattle Seahawks could benefit greatly from circumstances outside of their control.
Texas left tackle Connor Williams started this fall as a potential top-10 pick. He was considered the top prospect at a premium position. He may recapture that designation before the draft process is complete.
But two concern areas are holding Williams back.
First, a knee injury placed him on the sideline for most of the season. Second, inconsistent technique plagued him when he was on the field.
NFL teams are searching for prospects who are more developed along the offensive line, because so many are coming into the league completely unprepared for the next level. Williams is physically gifted at 6'6" and 315 pounds with good feet. He's only 20 years old and far from a polished technician, though.
The Seahawks must do everything in their power to improve the league's worst offensive line. Williams can begin his career at right tackle before eventually taking over for Duane Brown on the blind side.
19. Dallas Cowboys
The Pick: DT Maurice Hurst, Michigan
The Dallas Cowboys took a major step back in 2017, and they need to address multiple positions in the offseason. One possibility in the draft is building upon a promising defensive front.
DeMarcus Lawrence's contract status will determine which position needs the most attention. As of now, Lawrence is still with the team, and the organization invested a first-round pick in defensive end Taco Charlton in the 2017 draft.
Michigan's Maurice Hurst is an ideal 3-technique for Rod Marinelli's scheme. The 282-pound Hurst explodes off the snap. His first-step quickness helped create 25 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks over the last two seasons. The consensus All-American is also more powerful at the point of attack than his size indicates. Hurst has been well-coached in how to utilize his hands and shed blockers.
Maliek Collins can make a permanent move to 1-technique with Hurst and David Irving sharing reps at the other defensive tackle spot.
20. Detroit Lions
The Pick: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah still needs a full-time running mate. The Lions front office decided not to make a significant investment in a bookend last offseason, and the team lacks a second pass-rushing presence.
The Clemson Tigers defense front is loaded with future NFL talent. Christian Watkins is already off the board. Austin Bryant has a chance to be an early-round pick, too. Dexter Lawrence, meanwhile, is well on his way to being a top-10 pick for the 2019 class.
Yet Clelin Ferrell is the best pure pass-rusher of the bunch. The 6'5", 265-pound edge defender is long, lean and flexible. He effortlessly turns the corner and does so from a two- or three-point stance. Ferrell leads Clemson with 17 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and seven quarterback pressures.
The addition of a talented defensive end will help provide flexibility within the Lions defensive front. Anthony Zettel emerged as a productive performer this season. He can be moved to defensive tackle or end depending on matchups.
Even with a healthy Ansah and Zettel's improvement, the Lions are still ranked among the bottom half of the league with 35 sacks.
21. Buffalo Bills
The Pick: DE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
UTSA's Marcus Davenport wins the award for the best overall talent many haven't heard of or watched. The 6'7", 255-pound edge-rusher will likely skyrocket up draft boards with strong showings at the Senior Bowl and NFL combine.
His play speaks for itself. The defensive end is the all-time leader in sacks and tackles for loss for the Roadrunners. Davenport managed 17 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks as a senior. According to Pro Football Focus, he ranked third in pass-rushing productivity among edge defenders this season.
Davenport overwhelmed lesser competition with his size and athleticism. The Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year is a well-rounded athlete with the ability to come screaming off the edge, convert speed to power and defend the run.
The Buffalo Bills need more from their pass rush. Sean McDermott's defense managed only 27 sacks. Jerry Hughes could be a cap casualty after the season, and Shaq Lawson hasn't lived up to first-round expectations. Davenport displays enough potential to develop into a premier pass-rusher.
22. Atlanta Falcons
The Pick: DT Vita Vea, Washington
The Atlanta Falcons own a talented and improving defense. Most of the starting lineup is filled by young veterans with at least two years remaining on their current contracts. What the unit lacks is a long-term solution at 1-technique.
Both Dontari Poe and Ahtyba Rubin are free agents after this season. Poe played well during his first year in Atlanta, but he's probably in line for a big payday at 27 years old. The Falcons, meanwhile, may not be willing to give him anything more than another short-term deal.
The 346-pound nose tackle came into the league as a true athletic specimen. Washington's Vita Vea has the chance to be his replacement in the lineup and as the league's top monstrous nose tackle.
The 340-pound defensive lineman, who played running back in high school, now throws offensive linemen around like rag dolls. Oh, he covers punts, too. This level of absurdity places the 2017 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year into Haloti Ngata demigod status.
23. Tennessee Titans
The Pick: DE Harold Landry, Boston College
The 2017 campaign hasn't treated Boston College's Harold Landry well. After leading the nation with 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 2016, Landry dealt with an ankle injury that ultimately cost him his final five contests.
As such, his recovery and availability for the Senior Bowl will have a dramatic effect on his draft standing.
Prior to this season, top-10 overall grades followed the sack master. He still finished the year with five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss, but the explosiveness that defined his previous effort wasn't apparent.
Landry relies on first-step quickness to beat offensive linemen before they're even out of their stance. Plus, a lack of ankle flexibility decreases a pass-rusher's ability to turn the edge. The 2016 All-American didn't have a full repertoire at his disposal, and it showed. But this doesn't take away from his natural ability plainly seen a year prior.
The Tennessee Titans lack dynamic edge-rushers in Dick LeBeau's base 3-4 scheme. Brian Orakpo is 31 years old, while Derrick Morgan relies more on power and technique to beat blockers. Landry's athleticism can add a new element to the Titans' scheme.
24. Carolina Panthers
The Pick: OT Tyrell Crosby, Oregon
Andrew Norwell can expect a massive new contract this offseason as arguably the top available free-agent offensive lineman. His potential departure creates a hole at left guard. Meanwhile, Matt Kalil hasn't been a solid investment. However, the organization must keep him for another year before it's financially feasible to move forward without the left tackle.
Tyrell Crosby's selection can solve both problems. First, Crosby can start his career at left guard before bumping outside to cover Cam Newton's blind side.
The 6'5", 320-pound blocker is the nation's most aggressive and physical blocker. He attacks defenders, gets into their bodies and looks to bury them in the run game. Once he latches onto a defender with his bear paws, it's over. His approach is ideal for the Panthers' power running attack. He's not passive in pass protection, either. The all-conference performer has nimble feet.
Crosby's future looked bright until he suffered injuries that derailed his 2016 campaign. This year's Morris Trophy winner rebounded with a stellar senior campaign.
25. Buffalo (from Kansas City)
The Pick: QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Wyoming's Josh Allen is the draft class' most physically talented quarterback prospect. He's also the most inconsistent.
As a result, he's still considered a first-round talent—maybe even in top-10 consideration—despite a pedestrian 2017 campaign. Allen completed 56.3 percent of his passes for 1,812 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions in 11 contests.
An argument can be made that Allen's supporting cast is terrible after losing last year's leading rusher, top three targets and starting center. This doesn't excuse the quarterback's poor decision-making, ball placement and overall accuracy, though.
There's no denying Allen's raw tools. The 6'5", 233-pound California native has the best pure arm talent since Matthew Stafford entered the league in 2009. He is nearly as big and mobile as Cam Newton, too.
A team is going to take a chance on Allen sooner than later. The Buffalo Bills have a pair of first-round picks, and Tyrod Taylor isn't their long-term answer. Taking a chance on Allen at this point in the process is a worthwhile gamble.
26. New Orleans Saints
The Pick: LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech's Tremaine Edmunds is everything professional teams want in a linebacker. He's 6'5" and 250 pounds with ample athleticism, sound instincts, impressive production and NFL bloodlines. His father, Ferrell, made two Pro Bowls and played seven seasons with the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks.
Edmunds started at both inside and outside linebacker during his time in Blacksburg, Virginia. He accumulated 213 total tackles, 33 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
At this point, Edmunds is better moving forward than dropping into space, and he'll likely start his career on the strong side before moving to the middle. But his natural skills are present to develop into a complete defender.
The New Orleans Saints lack athleticism at linebacker with A.J. Klein, Manti Te'o and Craig Robertson. Plus, the team has ties to Edmunds, since his older brother, Trey, is already on the roster.
27. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Pick: QB Lamar Jackson, Louisville
What if I told you teams have the option to select a college quarterback prospect who threw for 7,203 yards, ran for 3,172 more and scored 96 total touchdowns during last two seasons? The same signal-caller also has a flick-of-the-wrist release with impressive arm strength and runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash.
He'd be the automatic No. 1 prospect, right? Nope.
Louisville's Lamar Jackson isn't respected enough as a quarterback. The knocks are predictable: He's too skinny, his footwork needs to be improved and he doesn't win from the pocket.
Those arguments don't take into account multiple factors. First, Jackson improved each season from the pocket. Second, Bobby Petrino's offense asked him to make multiple reads in the passing game. Finally, Jackson is only 20 years old and still developing. No one can deny his production and consistent dominance against top competition, though.
Meanwhile, the Jacksonville Jaguars are stuck in limbo with Blake Bortles. The 2014 third overall pick has one year remaining on his rookie contract. Jackson can spend the 2018 campaign on the bench and take over the following season. The idea of Jackson in the backfield alongside Leonard Fournette is exciting.
28. Los Angeles Rams
The Pick: C Billy Price, Ohio State
The Los Angeles Rams' 2017 offensive turnaround is the greatest in NFL history. After finishing dead last in points last season, Sean McVay's squad ranked first this year.
But the unit is far from complete. The front five are aging and could use upgrades.
Center, in particular, has been manned by the 32-year-old John Sullivan, who didn't play in 2015 and started one game the following season. Sullivan is operating under a one-year contract, and the organization must find a long-term replacement to become Jared Goff's battery mate.
Ohio State's Billy Price moved from guard to center as a senior and captured the Rimington Trophy as the nation's best snapper. His combination of power at the point of attack and athleticism to work in space provides an offensive coordinator with options. The 6'4", 312-pound blocker is ultra-reliable, too: Price set a new Buckeyes record with 55 consecutive starts.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pick: LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
Unfortunately, Ryan Shazier's career may be over, and the Pittsburgh Steelers must consider every available option at inside linebacker. Alabama's Rashaan Evans is tailor-made for Pittsburgh's system.
Evans may not be the same caliber as Shazier (how many linebackers are), but he brings many of the same attributes.
The senior was the heart of Alabama's impressive defense. His motor and versatility allowed head coach Nick Saban to use him in a variety of ways, from rushing the passer to dropping into space as either an inside or outside linebacker. Evans leads the Crimson Tide with 10.5 tackles for loss and ranks second with five sacks, despite missing two-and-a-half games with a groin injury.
The All-American is always near the ball, and he's looking to hit someone upon arrival. Adding Evans to possibly replace Shazier provides the Steelers with a complete linebacker corps.
30. Minnesota Vikings
The Pick: DT Taven Bryan, Florida
Florida's Taven Bryan is the early favorite to wow everyone at March's NFL combine and emerge as as a first-round pick.
"I always thought he had J.J. Watt-ish ability," former Florida defensive coordinator and current Temple head coach Geoff Collins told Bleacher Report's Adam Kramer. "... He's an NFL player now with room to get better. It's a scary thought."
The Watt comparison isn't used lightly. Bryant's natural athleticism for a 6'5", 293-pound interior defender borders on supernatural since he's counted among Florida's strongest and fastest. His first-step explosiveness is the best in the upcoming draft class.
Bryant isn't simply a workout warrior. The junior started to become a complete defender with 37 total tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks. He's far from a finished product, and he may turn out to be a better professional.
The Minnesota Vikings defense is stacked, but 3-technique remains unsettled due to Shariff Floyd's lingering knee issue and the 33-year-old Tom Johnson free agency after the season.
31. Philadelphia Eagles
The Pick: OT Chukwuma Okorafor, Western Michigan
Jason Peters' season-ending, right-knee injury created a massive void at left tackle. Halapoulivaati Vaitai is trying to hold down the blind side, but he's not the team's long-term answer at such a valuable position.
The Eagles must place an emphasis on addressing that spot. A couple options exist. First, the team could finally move Lane Johnson from right to left tackle. Or, the organization can invest its top draft pick on the position.
Western Michigan's Chukwuma Okorafor serves as the perfect compromise. The Nigeria native is a far from a polished prospect, but the former soccer player started at both right and left tackle for the Broncos. His physical tools are everything a team wants at the position. At 6'6" and 330 pounds, the blocker's nimble footwork makes him an ideal fit for the Eagles' athletic front, while his long arms should help ease his transition as a pass-blocker.
Philadelphia can't rely on the 35-year-old Peters any longer, and a replacement is needed to protect Carson Wentz.
32. New England Patriots
The Pick: DE Sam Hubbard, Ohio State
The New England Patriots have an opportunity to turn a weakness into a strength with the right late first-round selection. The organization entered the season not knowing exactly who could generate a consistent pass rush, and it's been an issue throughout the year.
The Patriots can build a strong, young defensive front next season with the addition of Ohio State's Sam Hubbard alongside Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy and a healthy Derek Rivers.
Hubbard is an ideal fit for Bill Belichick's system. He's a long and lean edge-rusher with the ability to bend the edge. The underclassman finished second on Ohio State with seven sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. He provides flexibility to rush from the edge or along the interior, he's intelligent and he earned 2016 Academic All-American honors.
Belichick has a chance to build an interesting sub-package with Flowers, Wise, Hubbard and Rivers all on the field to pressure opposing quarterbacks.