NFL Mock Draft 2018: Updated Projections for Top 32 Picks

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 15, 2018

Louisville Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) warms up before the start of the TaxSlayer Bowl NCAA college football game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

Some draft classes are just fun, which one could say certainly applies to the 2018 NFL draft. 

There, the renaissance at the running back position continues with a best-in-class player like Saquon Barkley. Quarterback isn't an afterthought, though, not with four or five names who could come off the board in the first round and at least four likely in the top 10. 

But it doesn't stop there. Bradley Chubb ensures this is another class with an elite, can't-miss edge presence. And the offensive line is finally well represented, with guard Quenton Nelson likely being the surest prospect in the draft and several tackles looking like top-20 prospects. 

Of course, a class this strong means seemingly endless possibilities, which means the smallest stock alteration for one player creates a huge change on a mock draft. Let's look at an updated one below as we await the combine. 

           

2018 NFL 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 (via Houston Texans): Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

5. Denver Broncos: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

6. New York Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State

8. Chicago Bears: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

*9. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

*10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

13. Washington Redskins: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

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

15. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

16. Baltimore Ravens: Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

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

19. Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

21. Buffalo Bills: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

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

23. Los Angeles Rams: Billy Price, C/G, Ohio State

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

25. Tennessee Titans: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

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

27. New Orleans Saints: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: D.J. Clark, WR, Maryland

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

31. New England Patriots: Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, EDGE, Oklahoma

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Ronald Jones II, RB, USC

*Denotes tiebreakers to be decided by a coin flip.

           

6. New York Jets: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

Just because there are four or five great quarterback prospects this year doesn't mean they aren't polarizing. 

One of the most divisive prospects overall might be Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, a versatile threat who has some thinking he might stand a better chance at the next level if he switches positions. 

NFL teams won't bother with such silliness, of course. 

The NFL is desperate for franchise-changing players at quarterback, and Jackson enters the league off a season in which he threw for 3,660 yards and 27 touchdowns while running for another 1,601 yards and 18 touchdowns. That's three fewer touchdowns than he scored in both areas the year prior, too. 

For Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, the upside of a special NFL quarterback is right there: 

Which is the point—the NFL drafts on upside. Jackson has loads of it, and while coaching can't necessarily address accuracy, it can mold an entire offense around a player's skill set and help him succeed. 

In the above scenario, this is something the New York Jets won't mind doing if Jackson falls. The Josh McCown breakout year was a fun time, but guys behind him like Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg aren't exactly exciting. 

Jackson is, especially because of his ability to keep defenses guessing and help a run-first approach dominate games. 

             

*9. San Francisco 49ers: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

Nelson got a mention above with high praise because he's outright one of the best prospects to enter the draft in a long time.

At 6'5" and 325 pounds, Nelson is going to arrive at the pro level and throw around veteran players with ease.  

Look at what NFL.com's Bucky Brooks had to say: "Nelson is a bully at the point of attack with the size and strength to move defenders off the ball. He overpowers defensive tackles while flashing the nasty demeanor that O-Line coaches covet in their best players."

Or look at it this way—in his scouting report at NFL.com, Lance Zierlein compared Nelson to Larry Allen, and a team personnel executive told him "he's one of the best run blockers I've ever evaluated, but he's not a liability in pass protection Mike Iupati is."

Indeed, Nelson is a violent lineman with the perfect build and a high trench I.Q. helping plays succeed. It's something a rebuilding team like the San Francisco 49ers can't ignore after tying down Jimmy Garoppolo on a long-term deal.

Nelson can slide right in next to the newly extended Daniel Kilgore and not only protect the franchise quarterback and give all involved a better chance at success, but pave the way for a ground game that only saw Carlos Hyde average 3.9 yards per carry last season. 

Normally, drafting a guard isn't an exciting thing for fans. This one, though, should have 49ers faithful ecstatic. 

      

11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

Butch Dill/Associated Press

What's truly impressive about this class is we didn't even mention the elite defensive backs available in the intro, which we likely should have thanks to a guy like Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick is an interesting case study to see how far the NFL has evolved when it comes to defenses adapting to the high-flying offenses. It's a reactionary league in this regard, with players like Fitzpatrick capable of swinging things back in favor of defenses if used properly. 

The upside is certainly here. Fitzpatrick is 6'1" and 195 pounds with experience at every position throughout the secondary. Strong recognition paired with great athleticism made this possible in the SEC, though an innovative mind like Nick Saban helped.  

Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein explained this dynamic well in mid-December: "Fitzpatrick plays every position in the secondary, sometimes switching from snap to snap. He has the cover skills of a cornerback but the instincts and range of a safety. This is the future, Saban says, as the game moves toward pass-heavy, open formations. 'He’s the prototype' of a modern college DB, he says."

Much of whether Fitzpatrick can set a new standard in the same way elite prospects have made safety spots interchangeable over the years will come down to fit. With the Miami Dolphins, first-time defensive coordinator Matt Burke will have to use this potential well alongside other intriguing names like 
Cordrea Tankersley. 

With Tom Brady still going strong and the Jets getting a great quarterback prospect in the above mock, Fitzpatrick will see plenty of reps and chances to help reshape how we think about secondaries right away. 

             

Stats courtesy of NFL.com.

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