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NFL Mock Draft 2018: Early Outlook and Predictions for Entire 1st Round

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2018

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley (26) against Washington during the Fiesta Bowl NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

Whether you like it or not, the focus of the NFL draft will be the quarterback position until the selections are made in late April. 

The first plot twist in the quarterback saga was delivered on Tuesday night, as Alex Smith was dealt to the Washington Redskins by the Kansas City Chiefs, per Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star

With Kirk Cousins now on the free-agent market, the teams at the top of the first round could shift their focus away from one of the top quarterback prospects. 

Plenty will change between now and April 26, but for now all of the intrigue is dominated by the most important position in football. 

             

NFL 1st-Round Mock Draft

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

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

3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

4. Cleveland Browns: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA 

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

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio

8. Chicago Bears: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

*9. San Francisco 49ers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

*10. Oakland Raiders: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

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

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

13. Washington Redskins: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech 

14. Green Bay Packers: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

15. Arizona Cardinals: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

16. Baltimore Ravens: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

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

19. Dallas Cowboys: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan 

20. Detroit Lions: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

21. Buffalo Bills: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

22. Buffalo Bills: Arden Key, DE, LSU

23. Los Angeles Rams: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

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

25. Tennessee Titans: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College

26. Atlanta Falcons: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia

27. New Orleans Saints: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU 

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Billy Price, C, Ohio State

30. Minnesota Vikings: Chukwuma Okorafor, OT, Western Michigan

31. New England Patriots: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Derwin James, S, Florida State

*Pick Nos. 9 and 10 will be decided by a coin flip.

            

Alex Smith Trade Alters Quarterback Market

The first bombshell in the quarterback market was delivered on Tuesday night, as Smith was sent to Washington to make way for Patrick Mahomes to start in Kansas City.

The deal signaled the end of the Cousins era in Washington and took the Redskins out of the first-round hunt for the coveted group of college signal-callers. 

Cousins' availability on the free-agent market could further alter the first round if he goes to the Cleveland Browns or Denver Broncos, both of whom could use an upgrade at the position. 

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 31:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)   Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins in action against the New York Giants on December 31, 2017 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Giants defeated the Redskins 18-10.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Cleveland is in a precarious situation because it holds two top-five selections, and if it goes after Cousins, it will shift its draft priorities. 

Denver is in an interesting situation as well since it could solve its recent quarterback issues with the signing of Cousins and improve elsewhere with the No. 5 overall pick. 

Only one potential suitor can land Cousins, and there's no guarantee it will be Cleveland or Denver, but regardless of where the free agent ends up, he will shift the perspective of teams in the first round. 

             

Can the Browns Afford to Not Select a Quarterback in 1st Round?

If you have any clue what the Browns will do with their pair of top-five selections, we suggest you take your mind-reading powers to Las Vegas or to a local convenience store to purchase lottery tickets. 

At an event where unexpected decisions reign supreme, the Browns will be under the microscope with two picks in hand that could shape the direction of the franchise. 

Selecting a quarterback with the No. 1 pick seems like the logical choice, but there's a scenario in which the Browns take Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and one of the top defenders like Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. 

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Instead of going after one of the quarterback prospects, the Browns could bring in an experienced signal-caller, and they were interested in Smith before his trade to Washington, according to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com

Acquiring Cousins won't be cheap, and he might not want to come to a team that went 1-31 in the last two seasons, but if the Browns are able to pull it off, it could be a game-changer for the franchise. 

Even if they don't get Cousins, the Browns could add two key players like Barkley and Fitzpatrick if they sign a veteran quarterback in free agency and choose to draft a prospect in the later rounds to develop behind him. 

               

Could Arizona Be in the Market for a Quarterback? 

With Washington's quarterback situation taken care of, the Arizona Cardinals have a real chance of landing Carson Palmer's replacement in the first round, especially if Cousins lands at a team with a top-10 pick. 

If Cousins goes to Cleveland or Denver, it would leave the New York Giants, New York Jets and the loser in the hypothetical two-horse race for Cousins in the first-round quarterback market, which would leave one of the four coveted prospects at the position without a landing spot. 

Of the teams set to pick from seventh to 14th, you could only make a case for the Cincinnati Bengals at No. 12 to send shockwaves through the league and select a quarterback, but that seems unlikely even with the recent struggles of Andy Dalton

That leaves the path open for the Cardinals at No. 15 to take a cornerstone piece for the new era ushered in by head coach Steve Wilks and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. 

With Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert on the depth chart, it would be wise of the Cardinals to grab a young prospect at the position to develop under the new staff, but which of the four college stars that could be remains to be seen. 

We have Wyoming's Josh Allen falling to No. 15, but Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield could drop as well depending on how the teams in the top 10 break down each player during their evaluations. 

Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

Another variable that has to be thrown in here is the potential of a trade into the top 15 by a team like the Buffalo Bills, who could look for an upgrade to Tyrod Taylor, or the New Orleans Saints if they want to take a chance on high pick as the successor to Drew Brees

               

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

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