The end of the 2017 regular season represents the beginning of the 2018 season for 20 NFL teams that did not earn a position in the playoffs.
There is no time off as far as the NFL is concerned. Coaches like Jim Caldwell, John Fox, Jack Del Rio and Chuck Pagano have already been fired, and that means teams are already looking for new head coaches and complete coaching staffs.
It is also time to start studying free-agent lists and preparing for the draft.
Finding new talent in the draft is still considered the best way to improve a team's overall talent level. It may not be as fast as adding a high-priced free agent who has played in the Pro Bowl, but drafted players tend to stay with their respective teams longer and produce more consistently.
The 2018 draft will once again feature talented quarterbacks who may have the ability to lift their teams dramatically. While teams tend to reach for gifted passers, there's a good reason for this practice. Teams almost never win championships without a first-rate signal-caller.
Sam Darnold of USC, Josh Rosen of UCLA, Josh Allen of Wyoming, Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State and Lamar Jackson of Louisville are potential first-round draft picks. We offer our first look at the way the first round will go in the 2018 NFL draft
The order of the first 20 selections of the opening round is set, per ESPN.com. (Coin flips will determine the order in the case of several teams who finished with the same record.)
2018 NFL Mock Draft
1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
4. Cleveland Browns (via HOU): Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
5. Denver Broncos: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
6. New York Jets: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
9#. Oakland Raiders: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
10#. San Francisco 49ers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
11. Miami Dolphins: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
12. Cincinnati Bengals: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
13#. Green Bay Packers: Arden Key, OLB/DE, LSU
14#. Washington: Derwin James, S, Florida State
15. Arizona Cardinals: Billy Price, OL, Ohio State
16. Baltimore Ravens: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
18. Seattle Seahawks: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
19#. Dallas Cowboys: Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia
20#. Detroit Lions: Harold Landry, OLB/DE, Boston College
*21. Tennessee Titans: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
*22. Buffalo Bills: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
*23. Atlanta Falcons: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
*24. Buffalo Bills (via KC): Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
*25. Carolina Panthers: Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi
*26. Los Angeles Rams: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
*27. Jacksonville Jaguars: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
*28. New Orleans Saints: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
*29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jerome Baker, LB, Ohio State
*30. Philadelphia Eagles: Ben Banogu, DE/OLB, TCU
*31. Minnesota Vikings: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
*32. New England Patriots: Tremaine Edmunds, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech
# -- Coin flip will break these ties
* -- Playoff results will determine final draft order
QB Sam Darnold, USC
Height: 6'4", Weight: 225
2017: 303-of-480, 4,143 yards, 26 TDs, 13 interceptions
Darnold was the Heisman Trophy favorite at the start of the season, but he did not perform as well in 2017 as he did in 2016, when he completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Darnold has the size that scouts are looking for in the position, and his ability to make quick decisions with the ball is one of his key strengths. He is an accurate passer who has some mechanical flaws, but they can easily be repaired by a strong quarterback coach who will work with Darnold on an every-day basis.
QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
Height: 6'4", Weight: 218
2017: 282-of-451, 3,717 yards, 26 TDs, 10 interceptions
Rosen is very similar to Darnold, but he may be a technically better quarterback because his footwork is superior and has a full understanding of how to go through his progressions.
Rosen looks the part, as he stands tall in the pocket, surveys the field with a calm demeanor and generally makes the right decision with the ball.
Rosen did not play in UCLA's bowl game because he suffered a concussion in the final regular-season game against California. That does not appear to be a long-term problem and he could be selected with the first overall pick.
QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
Height: 6'5", Weight: 233
2017: 152-of-270, 1,812 yards, 16 TDs, 6 interceptions
Allen looks like a top pro quarterback, and he had excellent numbers in 2016 when he completed 209 of 373 passes for 3,203 yards with 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.
Wyoming played with a more veteran and accomplished team in 2016 than he had this year, so the downturn in production does not appear to be a key issue.
Allen has the size and strength to be an ideal NFL quarterback, and his arm strength is superior. He is not as advanced in his development as Darnold and Rosen, but he could develop into a dynamic performer in a short amount of time.