NFL Draft 2018: Selection Order and Projections for Hottest Prospects

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 30: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals takes the field prior to the TaxSlayer Bowl against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at EverBank Field on December 30, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

NFL playoffs and bowl season creates something other than one of the best times to be a sports fan—a snowball's worth of hype for the upcoming 2018 NFL draft. 

That snowball doesn't take long to become an avalanche. 

With college football's top prospects playing in bowl games and perhaps declaring for the NFL draft, those fans of teams outside the playoffs and watching from home start to think about the extensive upcoming draft process. 

Said process includes mock drafts, a unique tool no longer, well, mocked for its existence. Providing the official order, an overview of the current prospect stock market, and team needs based both on roster holes and the front-office trends of each team, mocks are more than just a fun time these days.  

           

2018 NFL Mock Draft 

1. Cleveland Browns: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

2. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

3. Indianapolis Colts: Derwin James, S, Florida State

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

6. New York Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

8. Chicago Bears: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

*9. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

*10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

13. Washington: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

14. Green Bay Packers: Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

15. Arizona Cardinals: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

16. Baltimore Ravens: Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

18. Seattle Seahawks: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

19. Dallas Cowboys: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

20. Detroit Lions: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford 

21. Tennessee Titans: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

22. Buffalo Bills: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

23. Atlanta Falcons: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

24. Carolina Panthers: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

26. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

27. Los Angeles Rams: Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State

28. New Orleans Saints: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

29. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

31. Philadelphia Eagles: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

32. New England Patriots: Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson

* Depicts tiebreakers to be decided by a coin flip. Picks Nos. 21-32 will be determined by playoff results.

          

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

There was a moment of palpable hesitation in the draft process as the idea set in that UCLA's Josh Rosen wouldn't declare for this year's draft. 

He did, though, announcing the move after failing to suit up for a bowl game thanks to an injury. As ESPN.com's Matt Bowen wrote back in November, the class now gets an injection of talent via a prospect who is perhaps the most talented passer in the group. 

"There's natural arm talent here for a prospect with the frame (6'4", 218 pounds) and pocket ability to fit a pro scheme on the first day of camp. Plus, Rosen has been asked to carry the load for a UCLA team that lacks a defensive identity," Bowen wrote. 

Rosen struggled at times with injuries over the course of his collegiate career, yet the 62.6 completion percentage alongside 3,756 yards and 26 touchdowns against 10 interceptions as a junior speaks for itself—he's one of at least four quarterbacks who could come off the board in the top 15 of this year's draft. 

The Denver Broncos likely couldn't be happier with the arrangement. An otherwise strong roster once again found itself derailed thanks to the quarterback position in 2017, watching as Trevor Siemian completed less than 60 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns against 14 interceptions, and both Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch fared even worse. 

Maybe Rosen can't come in and start right away, but it's one of the few stable environments for a rookie passer thanks to a strong defense and weapons such as Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, among others. 

In the above scenario, Denver misses out on two other quarterbacks but lands with Rosen, whose natural passing ability will be a breath of fresh air. 

            

6. New York Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

Other than Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield, no quarterback in the 2018 class has as much hype as Lamar Jackson out of Louisville. 

While Mayfield has commanded the headlines lately leading up to the draft, Jackson is another guy who has just as much buzz in the NFL realm because of his similar, if not better, versatility. 

ESPN Stats & Info helped illustrate the "why" behind the hype.

Jackson once again put Louisville on his back in 2017, throwing for 27 touchdowns with only 10 interceptions and running for another 18 touchdowns. As a fun aside, he has more career rushing yards and touchdowns than the above's No. 1 overall pick, Saquon Barkley. 

The risk factor pushes Jackson down the board slightly, but a team like the New York Jets won't be able to pass on the upside. 

In fact, "upside" isn't something the Jets have had under center in a long time. This continued during a five-win campaign in 2017, where a surprising 67.3 completion percentage with 18 touchdowns from Josh McCown helped the team in the short term, yet provided nothing for the future. 

The Jets need to address the defense and running game, but the offense at least has a nice one-two punch through the air with Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse. Jackson doesn't necessarily need to start as a rookie, yet the versatility while navigating a rebuilding roster through rocky waters doesn't hurt. 

               

9. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

What, think a guard can't be one of the most hyped players in a draft class? 

Time to get to know Quenton Nelson. 

Nelson has been downright dominant for Notre Dame, but especially so during a win in a bowl game against LSU on January 1, where he ripped off some of the best blocks fans will see from a prospect this year and any year overall. 

At 6'5" and 330 pounds, Nelson is easily the surest thing in the draft this year and is a legit candidate to come off the board in the top five. 

MMQB's Albert Breer explained it well earlier this season: "Is a guard worth taking in the top five? What if that guard is a pretty good bet to be an All-Pro, and tons of teams need offensive line help? Irish left tackle Mike McGlinchey gets more attention, but Nelson might be the best lineman in college football and won't last long in April." 

Also try to keep in mind drafting an offensive tackle is harder than usual these days, meaning it's valuable to know a top-10 pick is borderline assured to pan out. Such is the allure here at No. 9 for the San Francisco 49ers, a team desperately needing to protect new franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. 

Could the 49ers use more skill players around Garoppolo? Of course, but as we already saw with a five-game winning streak, the new quarterback in town has the ability to elevate those around him. Grabbing an immediate starter on the weak interior of the offensive line between strong offensive tackles is an instant impact, as well a strong long-term move. 

          

Stats courtesy of NFL.com.