NFL Mock Draft 2018: Fresh Projections for 1st-Round Prospects

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2018

Ohio State cornerback Denzel Ward plays against Michigan State during an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

There comes a point in every calendar year where football fans' attention turns from checking the NFL standings every Monday to checking the 40-yard dash times of the top prospects.

That time happened earlier for Cleveland Browns fans than it did for Philadelphia Eagles supporters, but the entire league now has its sights set on the 2018 NFL draft after Sunday's Super Bowl.

The next Tom Brady, Todd Gurley or Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles could be waiting in the wings, and it is up to the front offices to discover them. There are also some top-notch defensive prospects who could help prevent the next Super Bowl from turning into a 41-33 shootout like Sunday's.

With that in mind, here is a look at the latest mock for the first round, as well as some defensive players who figure to step in right away and make an immediate impact.

            

Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

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

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

4. Cleveland Browns (via Houston Texans): Connor Williams, OT, Texas

5. Denver Broncos: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

6. New York Jets: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State

8. Chicago Bears: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

*9. San Francisco 49ers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

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

11. Miami Dolphins: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

13. Washington: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

14. Green Bay Packers: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

15. Arizona Cardinals: James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State

16. Baltimore Ravens: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Derwin James, DB, Florida State

18. Seattle Seahawks: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

19. Dallas Cowboys: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

20. Detroit Lions: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

21. Buffalo Bills: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

23. Los Angeles Rams: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

24. Carolina Panthers: Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State

25. Tennessee Titans: Sam Hubbard, DE/OLB, Ohio State

26. Atlanta Falcons: Marcus Davenport, DE, UTSA

27. New Orleans Saints: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma

30. Minnesota Vikings: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

31. New England Patriots: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Harold Landry, LB, Boston College

*The order of the ninth and 10th picks between the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders will be determined by a coin flip.

              

Defensive Difference-Makers

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Perhaps no team in the NFL needs improvement on the defensive side more than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.

Tampa was last in the league in yards and passing yards allowed in 2017 on the way to a 5-11 record and last-place finish in the NFC South. One reason for the struggles was a lackluster pass rush, as opposing quarterbacks consistently had a clean pocket and sat back until receivers broke open.

The Buccaneers finished last in the league with 22 sacks in 2017 and didn't have enough help alongside Gerald McCoy up front to put a scare in opposing signal-callers.

That's why they will jump all over North Carolina State's Bradley Chubb if he falls to the seventh pick.

Chubb tallied 10 sacks in each of his final two collegiate seasons and won the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and Bronko Nagurski Award in 2017. He also posted 72 tackles in 2017, underscoring his ability to make plays against the run as someone who is more versatile than just a pure pass-rusher.

Bleacher Report's Matt Miller pointed to that versatility when selling Chubb's potential:

"Chubb has power in his 275-pound frame and uses it well to shed blockers, but he's much more agile than one would expect from someone his size. He can stand up and rush the quarterback or put his hand in the dirt to crash the backfield. Chubb's scheme versatility is a sell in today's NFL when defenses rarely stay in a base 4-3 or 3-4."

Pairing Chubb's versatility with McCoy in the defensive front would be a significant improvement for Tampa Bay.

             

*9. San Francisco 49ers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

NFL teams would be wise to look at the defensive playmakers coming out of Ohio State early in the draft after Joey Bosa and Marshon Lattimore took home the last two Defensive Rookie of the Year awards.

None of this year's Buckeyes stand out more than cornerback Denzel Ward, who brings excellent speed to the table.

He finished the 2017 season with 37 total tackles, two interceptions and 15 passes defended for a stout Buckeyes defense that helped lead them to a Big Ten title.

It is not a stretch to call the San Francisco 49ers a potential playoff contender after Jimmy Garoppolo led them to five straight wins to finish the season, but they need to make strides on the defensive side if that is going to happen.

That is where Ward steps in as the ninth-overall pick in the draft, especially for a 49ers defense that was a mere 22nd in the league in passing yards allowed in 2017.

Ward is the type of instant starter who could come in and immediately give San Francisco a presence in the defensive backfield who can run with some of the league's fastest receivers and battle with physical ones.

            

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

NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 23:  Minkah Fitzpatrick #29 of the Alabama Crimson Tide plays against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The 49ers are not the only team in the Bay Area in need of secondary help.

The Oakland Raiders were even worse at 26th in the league in passing yards allowed in 2017 as they failed to build on their 12-4 finish in 2016 and went just 6-10. The showing was more consistent with the recent pattern for a franchise that has made the playoffs just once since its Super Bowl appearance in the 2002 season.

Oakland is in need of young and talented building blocks on the defensive side alongside pass-rush extraordinaire Khalil Mack if it is ever going to build a consistent winner.

With that in mind, it will follow San Francisco's pick (after losing the coin toss) with another cornerback at No. 10 in Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick helped lead the Crimson Tide to the national title with 60 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, an interception and seven passes defended. He also tallied six interceptions in 2016 and returned two of them for touchdowns as a ballhawk who is dangerous in the open field after forcing a turnover.

What's more, Fitzpatrick returned both of his interceptions in 2015 for scores as well.

Miller noted there is more to like about the Alabama product than just what shows up on the field: "Fitzpatrick is one of the highest-graded players I've come across off the field. Coaches, teammates and even opponents rave about him. He's as clean as they come, and he backs it up with excellent instincts and a high football IQ."

Someone like that would give the Raiders a much-needed boost in the secondary as they attempt to climb back into the playoff discussion in the AFC West.

Related

    Pats Are Doomed If Gordon Doesn't Fit

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Pats Are Doomed If Gordon Doesn't Fit

    Brent Sobleski
    via Bleacher Report

    Gronk: 'I'm Not Going Anywhere Without Brady'

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Gronk: 'I'm Not Going Anywhere Without Brady'

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    NFL Team Grades for Week 3 ✏️

    NFL logo
    NFL

    NFL Team Grades for Week 3 ✏️

    Kristopher Knox
    via Bleacher Report

    Pats' Struggles Continue in Loss to Lions

    NFL logo
    NFL

    Pats' Struggles Continue in Loss to Lions

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report