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NFL Mock Draft 2018: Post-Conference Championship 1st-Round Predictions

David McCracken@crackemcFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2018

IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 2:  Quarterback Josh Allen #17 of the Wyoming Cowboys in the first quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes, on September 2, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.  (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

The Super Bowl is set, as the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles punched their tickets to Minnesota in a showdown for the Lombardi Trophy.

In addition to that, the NFL draft order is nearly complete now that the Jacksonville Jaguars and Minnesota Vikings cemented their spots near the end of the first round.

Below, we'll take a look at my updated mock draft and examine three players who will surely make an impact at the next level.

     

NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

2. New York Giants: Derwin James, S, Florida State

3. Indianapolis Colts: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston Texans): Sam Darnold, QB, USC

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

6. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

9. San Francisco 49ers*: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

10. Oakland Raiders*: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

11. Miami Dolphins: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

13. Washington Redskins: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

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

15. Arizona Cardinals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

16. Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

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

18. Seattle Seahawks: Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

19. Dallas Cowboys: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

21. Buffalo Bills: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City Chiefs): Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

23. Los Angeles Rams: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

24. Carolina Panthers: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

25. Tennessee Titans: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE/OLB, Oklahoma

26. Atlanta Falcons: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

27. New Orleans Saints: Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

30. Minnesota Vikings: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

31. Philadelphia Eagles: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

32. New England Patriots: Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State

*An asterisk next to a team's name means that its draft position isn't set yet and will be decided upon via coin-flip. The order of the final two teams will be decided by the outcome of the Super Bowl.

     

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Roquan Smith

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Roquan Smith #3 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates after defeating the Oklahoma Sooners 54-48 in double overtime in the 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose
Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

If you watched the Georgia Bulldogs at any point this past season, you'll know why Roquan Smith is, arguably, the best defensive player in this year's draft class.

Bradley Chubb might go before Smith at the top of the draft, but it won't be long before Smith is off the board at No. 7, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will jump on the opportunity to draft a stud linebacker. Originally, I had Smith going to the Oakland Raiders at No. 10, but Smith will perform well enough at the combine and during team interviews to move up in the draft.

ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. has Smith going to the Raiders, however, and here's what he had to say about the Georgia star:

"Smith is the type of player new coach Jon Gruden loves. He's physical. He can get sideline to sideline in a hurry. He's a force in the middle. Smith was one of the best players on the field in the College Football Playoff National Championship, and he could slot into the middle of the Raiders' defense in place of NaVorro Bowman, who's a free agent. Oakland could also target a pass-rusher to help Khalil Mack & Co."

Gruden may love Smith, but it's doubtful that he lasts that long. Tampa Bay will love having Smith and Lavonte David in its linebackers unit next season.

     

13. Washington Redskins: Josh Allen

IOWA CITY, IOWA- SEPTEMBER 2:  Quarterback Josh Allen #17 of the Wyoming Cowboys escapes a tackle from defensive end Anthony Nelson #98 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the second quarter, on September 2, 2017 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.  (Photo by
Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Let's get one thing straight: Josh Allen is a very talented quarterback, but he will not go No. 1.

Allen is still a top-five quarterback in this year's draft, but the likes of Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield will and should go ahead of him. The production simply wasn't there at Wyoming, where he threw for 1,812 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.

He has the measurables and the athleticism to make plays at the next level, but the film doesn't lie on Allen, regardless of what Kiper Jr. says:

"My evaluations on this quarterback class are really close. I've gone back and forth a few times on Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Allen, but I just moved Allen up to my No. 1 quarterback. His numbers aren't impressive, I know. But the NFL is all about projection, and he has a high ceiling. Coaches want to work with the 6-foot-5 Allen because he has all of the tools. I said last month that he is one of my favorite prospects in this class. The other top quarterbacks have warts, and there is no slam-dunk No. 1 prospect, which makes it a fun class. Scouts are looking forward to seeing Allen at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, next week, where he will work out with much better talent."

The NFL isn't all about projection, and to go No. 1 in the draft to the Cleveland Browns, who need to get this pick right after going 0-16 during the regular season, there needs to be some level of production in college to justify a top selection.

With the Washington Redskins not knowing what to do with Kirk Cousins, they'll take safety measures to ensure that the team won't take another step backward next season with Allen at No. 13.

     

16. Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 30: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Louisville Cardinals looks to pass while under pressure from Willie Gay Jr. #6 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the TaxSlayer Bowl at EverBank Field on December 30, 2017 in Jacksonville, Flor
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Sorry, Joe Flacco. But elite quarterbacks don't blow a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17.

Flacco just turned 33 and is coming of a season where he threw for 3,141 yards, 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The Baltimore Ravens offense as a whole needs a facelift with some playmakers in the backfield and at the wide receiver positions, but having a true playmaker under center would do wonders for this team.

Enter Lamar Jackson.

At the quarterback position, players don't come in the form of Jackson everyday. With his ability to run and pass the ball, he could project to be an even better version of former Ravens backup Tyrod Taylor and could (although unlikely) become the next Michael Vick.

During his career at Louisville, Jackson threw for 3,660 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Oh, and he also ran for 1,601 yards—sixth in the entire country—and 18 touchdowns, which was as many as Penn State running back Saquon Barkley scored this season.

It's a high ceiling for Jackson, but that comes with a fairly low floor. The former Heisman Trophy winner would benefit from sitting on the bench for Baltimore in his rookie season and learning under Flacco, similar to how the Kansas City Chiefs are mentoring Patrick Mahomes as Alex Smith's understudy.

Jackson can make plays that no other player in this year's draft class can make. He might not be the most technically sound passer, but footwork can be learned—his athleticism and grit can't be taught.

     

All stats are courtesy of ESPN.com unless otherwise noted.

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