NFL Draft 2018: Final Mock Draft Predictions Before Wild Card Weekend

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2018

Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith (3) celebrates after a Georgia fumble recovery late in the second half of an NCAA college football game against Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Georgia won 20-19. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

The 2018 NFL draft pool isn't set yet, but the list of this year's most coveted prospects is starting to come into clear view with the start of the playoffs on the horizon. 

While official word proved elusive a week ago, former USC quarterback Sam Darnold, UCLA signal-caller Josh Rosen and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley all announced their intentions to declare for the draft following bowl games. 

And with the non-playoff portion of the draft order finalized (pick Nos. 1-20)with the exception of an impending coin flip between the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiderswe can start to make some more robust projections. 

Below, you'll find an updated first-round mock draft accompanied by a spotlight on three prospects and their best potential landing spots come April. 

As a bit of housekeeping, please note pick Nos. 21-32 are listed based on playoff seeding. Therefore, the No. 6 seeds in each conference (the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Falcons) hold picks 21 and 22, respectively, and so forth. 

                        

Round 1 Projections

  • 1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
  • 2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
  • 3. Indianapolis Colts: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
  • 4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
  • 5. Denver Broncos: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame
  • 6. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
  • 7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
  • 8. Chicago Bears: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma
  • 9. San Francisco 49ers: Derwin James, S, Florida State
  • 10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
  • 11. Miami Dolphins: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
  • 12. Cincinnati Bengals: Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State
  • 13. Washington Redskins: Arden Key, EDGE, LSU
  • 14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
  • 15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
  • 16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
  • 17. Los Angeles Chargers: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
  • 18. Seattle Seahawks: Connor Williams, OT, Texas
  • 19. Dallas Cowboys: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
  • 20. Detroit Lions: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE, Oklahoma
  • 21. Buffalo Bills: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
  • 22. Atlanta Falcons: Vita Vea, DT, Washington
  • 23. Tennessee Titans: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
  • 24. Carolina Panthers: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
  • 25. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
  • 26. New Orleans Saints: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
  • 27. Jacksonville Jaguars: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
  • 28. Los Angeles Rams: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
  • 29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
  • 30. Minnesota Vikings: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
  • 31. Philadelphia Eagles: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan
  • 32. New England Patriots: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

                     

Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

KNOXVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 30: Roquan Smith #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs in action during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium on September 30, 2017 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Georgia won 41-0. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Oakland Raiders need help at the second level, and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith would be the perfect solution for what ails them. 

As the Mercury NewsMatt Schneidman wrote, Oakland "struggled at times defending dual-threat backs who caught passes out of the backfield. Washington's Chris Thompson, Miami's Damien Williams, the Chargers' Melvin Gordon, Philadelphia's Jay Ajayi and New England's Dion Lewis are all running backs who tallied receiving touchdowns against the Raiders this year." 

Smith, then, would seem to be an ideal match. 

A speedy sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can play all three downs, Smith is the kind of defensive linchpin defensive coordinators at the next level crave. 

That much was clear in Georgia's College Football Playoff semifinal win over Oklahoma, when Smith tallied 11 total tackles, including a couple of stops in overtime that helped propel the Bulldogs to the national title game. 

Pair Smith with the dynamite edge-rushing tandem of Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack, and the Raiders could soon have one of the more robust fronts in football. 

                            

Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 30: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field on December 30, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Bulldogs won 31-27. (Photo by
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Carson Palmer retired on Tuesday, which means the Arizona Cardinals are in the market for a new franchise quarterback. 

In a perfect world, they would be in position to snare Darnold, Rosen or Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. 

But assuming all three of those gunslingers are off the board, the Cardinals could do far worse than Louisville's Lamar Jackson. 

Arizona already has veteran playmakers in running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and while the entire offense will undergo wholesale changes following Bruce Arians' retirement, those two can give Jackson a steady foundation to work with upon arrival. 

As Bleacher Report's Matt Miller wrote in November, "Jackson's skill set would open up the Arizona offense and pair well with David Johnson" thanks to his "lightning-fast delivery and dual-threat skills."

               

Philadelphia Eagles: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Western Michigan's Chukwuma Okorafor has been something of an under-the-radar name in the 2018 draft conversation, but it's hard to knock the 6'6'', 330-pounder's credentials as a future bookend in the NFL. 

A first-team All-American in 2017, Okorafor has found himself in the first-round conversation because he has "the athletic ability to play left or right tackle," according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein

Beyond that, Okorafor still has plenty of untapped potential because, as Zierlein noted, he didn't begin playing football until he was a sophomore in high school. 

That's the kind of player the Philadelphia Eagles should be targeting toward the back of Round 1. 

While they have Lane Johnson penciled in as a long-term solution on one side of the line, Jason Peters is coming off a torn Achilles and will be in the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2018. 

That would seem to make Okorafor a logical fit. 

And while he may not be ready to start on day one, Okorafor has the physical tools necessary to one day evolve into a bookend opposite Johnson who can serve as a key component of Carson Wentz's protection plan. 

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