2018 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Landing Spots of Top Prospects

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 26, 2018

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) during action of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)
Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

As fans of the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots are preparing for Super Bowl LII next week, those who follow the other 30 teams are looking farther ahead to the 2018 NFL draft in April.

Another big step in the proverbial draft season is only a day away, as the 2018 Senior Bowl kicks off Saturday afternoon in Mobile, Alabama. Not only is the game itself a great showcase for many stars in this year's draft class, the practices leading up to the event offer ample opportunity to impress NFL scouts and front-office executives.

With the NFL Scouting Combine still to come in February and March, there's bound to be plenty of movement at the top of teams' draft boards. For the most part, though, the best and brightest have largely staked their claims to warrant Day 1 consideration. 

Below is a mock for the first round of the 2018 draft, followed by three questions that will linger in the months ahead.


First-Round Draft Order

1. Cleveland Browns: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

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

3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State

4. Cleveland Browns (via Texans): Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

6. New York Jets: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

8. Chicago Bears: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

9. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

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

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

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

13. Washington Redskins: Derwin James, S, Florida State

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: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

18. Seattle Seahawks: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

19. Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

21. Buffalo Bills: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

22. Buffalo Bills (via Chiefs): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

23. Los Angeles Rams: Tarvarus McFadden, CB, Florida State

24. Carolina Panthers: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

25. Tennessee Titans: Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

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

27. New Orleans Saints: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dallas Goedert, TE, South Dakota State

30. Minnesota Vikings: Billy Price, G/C, Ohio State

31. Philadelphia Eagles: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan

32. New England Patriots: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn


Lingering First-Round Questions

Where Will the Browns Go with the No. 4 Pick?

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The Cleveland Browns are widely expected to take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick. The team desperately needs a franchise quarterback, and any one of Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold is worthy of the top selection.

What the Browns do with the No. 4 pick is a little less predictable.

Cleveland could double up on offense and select Saquon Barkley. The Penn State star is by far the best running back in the draft. He ran for 1,271 yards and 18 touchdowns and caught 54 passes for 632 yards and three touchdowns as a junior in 2017.

While a backfield of Rosen/Mayfield/Darnold and Barkley would excite plenty of Browns fans, Cleveland has a big hole at cornerback as well. The Browns ranked 27th in pass defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), per Football Outsiders and lack a clear shutdown cornerback.

In that respect, Denzel Ward and Minkah Fitzpatrick would be logical targets.

After the team has cycled through multiple front-office regimes since returning to the league in 1999, fans should be hesitant to assume general manager John Dorsey is the Browns' front-office savior.

But Dorsey can engender a lot of faith in Northeast Ohio if he hits home runs with Cleveland's first two picks.


Will Another Big Day 1 Trade Happen?

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Last year, the Chicago Bears were aggressive on draft day and moved up one spot to select Mitchell Trubisky. Even though the trade looks less one-sided now, the Bears probably didn't have to make it in order to get their man.

Two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles traded up to get the Nos. 1 and 2 picks, respectively.

The trend may not continue for a third year.

The most obvious problem is that none of the teams near the top of the first round has a reason to trade up or a strong incentive to move down. The Browns and Indianapolis Colts could be the biggest wild cards.

Owning the first pick gives Cleveland some flexibility to move back a bit from the No. 4 spot. Maybe the Browns aren't as enamored with Barkley as everyone believes they should be, or Dorsey could be content to take Ward or Josh Jackson late in the first round.

The Colts, meanwhile, have a lot of areas to address this offseason but not at a position in which there's a clear choice in the draft. Indianapolis may benefit from stockpiling draft picks.

The Denver Broncos and New York Jets are looking for new quarterbacks this offseason. In theory, they should both be able to wait and get a talented signal-caller in the first round. Still, it wouldn't be surprising if—like the Bears—the Broncos or Jets got a bit antsy and traded up anyway.


Where Does Lamar Jackson Fall?

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Remember when an NFL coach ran out of ideas and compared Teddy Bridgewater to a fictional character from a football movie? It kind of feels like that's happening again with Lamar Jackson.

And Jackson was a far better college quarterback than his fellow Louisville alumnus. The Cardinals star passed for 9,043 yards and 69 touchdowns and ran for another 4,132 yards and 50 scores.

As The MMQB's Robert Klemko noted, the criticism toward Jackson is galling when Wyoming's Josh Allen is given the benefit of the doubt:

Robert Klemko @RobertKlemko

Derek Carr: 6-2, 215 Kirk Cousins: 6-3, 214 Andy Dalton: 6-2, 210 Lamar Jackson: 6-3, 212 Methinks all this may have nothing to do with his "frame"... https://t.co/hSiY2OOHfd

Concerns about Jackson's accuracy are legitimate. He completed 57 percent of his passes in three years at Louisville. But to make the leap and think Jackson should change positions is absurd.

Some will probably bring up Vince Young and Robert Griffin III as cautionary tales for any team that selects Jackson. It's worth remembering Jackson passed for nearly 3,000 more yards than Young did at Texas (6,040), while Griffin was a revelation as a rookie in the NFL before injuries derailed his career.

Patience and a coach willing to embrace Jackson's dual-threat nature will be critical with regard to his overall development.

Should Jackson fall to the end of the first round—or slip out of the first round altogether—he'd be a steal.