2018 NFL Mock Draft: Early 1st-Round Predictions for Top Prospects

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2018

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 18: Maurice Hurst #73 of the Michigan Wolverines in action during a game against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Madison, Wisconsin. Wisconsin won 24-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The 2018 draft gets underway April 26, but it's never too early to take a shot at connecting teams to prospects based on roster fit.

When looking at film and collegiate production, we can project what front offices might expect from high-ranking players within the class. NFL Scouting Combine reports will allow the public to dig a little deeper on individuals. Like how do standouts from campuses across the nation translate to the pros? Where do the top names land?

Free agency will affect the projections below, especially the top five, but each prediction addresses a roster need or considers the best player available while on the clock.


2018 NFL Mock Draft 1st-Round Projections

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC 

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2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA  

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

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

5. Denver Broncos: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

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

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

8. Chicago Bears: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

*9. San Francisco 49ers: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

*10. Oakland Raiders: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

11. Miami Dolphins: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

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

14. Green Bay Packers: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia 

15. Arizona Cardinals: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

16. Baltimore Ravens: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas 

18. Seattle Seahawks: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

19. Dallas Cowboys: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

20. Detroit Lions: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE, Oklahoma

21. Buffalo Bills: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Arden Key, OLB, LSU

23. Los Angeles Rams: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

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

25. Tennessee Titans: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama 

26. Atlanta Falcons: Armani Watts, S, Texas A&M

27. New Orleans Saints: Christian Sam, LB, Arizona State

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama 

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

30. Minnesota Vikings: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

31. New England Patriots: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Brian O'Neill, OT, Pittsburgh

*A coin-flip will confirm the draft order for Nos. 9 and 10.


Denver Broncos Select OG Quenton Nelson at No. 5

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 28:  Quenton Nelson #56 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish walks across the field in the second quarter against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Notre Dame Stadium on October 28, 2017 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Dylan Buel
Dylan Buell/Getty Images

After plenty of disappointment from draft picks Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos executive vice president of football operations and general manager John Elway may turn to a veteran signal-caller to lead the offense. 

On the Dan Patrick Show, Denver edge-rusher Von Miller said his piece on the idea of signing Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (h/t the Denver Post's Nicki Jhabvala):

Nicki Jhabvala @NickiJhabvala

Von Miller was a guest on the @dpshow and was asked about Kirk Cousins in the wake of the Alex Smith deal: https://t.co/X5PNtCBT6v

Nonetheless, we're left with rumors connecting Denver and Cousins. On paper, it's an appropriate match for both sides. And the front office should thus look to bolster the offensive line. The Broncos could acquire a tackle or guard in this spot, but Quenton Nelson jumps out on film as the best player available at No. 5.

NFL Media's Lance Zierlein believes the Notre Dame product, who helped the Fighting Irish average 269.5 yards on the ground, could experience a short learning curve as a pro:

"Elite guard prospect with outstanding size, rare power and a block finisher who can make tape room sessions uncomfortable for most opponents. Nelson is technically sound and is unlikely to face a long adjustment period once he gets into the league." 

If the Broncos sign Cousins, he would need protection and a complementary run game to optimize his play in the pocket.


Dallas Cowboys Select DT Maurice Hurst at No. 19 

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - SEPTEMBER 23: Maurice Hurst #73 of the Michigan Wolverines looks on after a game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on September 23, 2017 in West Lafayette, Indiana. Michigan won 28-10. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Ima
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys aided an inexperienced secondary with a decent pass rush last season. Defensive end Demarcus Lawrence racked up 14.5 sacks to lead the charge, but the unit will endure more growing pains on the back end. Furthermore, the team's sack leader heads to the negotiating table in the offseason.

Whether Lawrence re-signs or not, the Cowboys could add another quality cog to its pass rush in Maurice Hurst. The Michigan product finished his collegiate career with 13.5 sacks and 32 tackles that resulted in a loss of yardage. His tape shows a consistent ability to reach the backfield and disrupt whatever develops behind an offensive line.

The Cowboys may opt to add a wide receiver in this spot, but an offense that heavily relies on running back Ezekiel Elliott doesn't need elite receivers. On the other hand, a strong defensive front could propel this club back into playoff contention and among the top squads in the NFC.


Pittsburgh Steelers Select LB Rashaan Evans at No. 28 

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 14:  Rashaan Evans #32 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after sacking Cole Kelley #15 of the Arkansas Razorbacks at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Rashaan Evans had two productive years at linebacker, and he put enough on film to suggest he can handle a starting job in the NFL. The Alabama prospect displayed the ability to stay on the field for short-area coverage assignments and take shots at the quarterback on designed blitzes. 

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier has a long road toward recovery. He has movement in his legs but doesn't have the ability to walk on his own. The 25-year-old confirmed KQRS reporter Michele Tafoya's report via Twitter:

Ryan Shazier @RyanShazier

💯 correct https://t.co/aQFwl3M02m

General manager Kevin Colbert should add a versatile asset to the linebackers room, someone who can play all three downs. In addition to package flexibility, Evans brings leadership qualities as an outspoken starter of a championship program.


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