2018 NFL Mock Draft: Predictions for Where Top 1st-Round Prospects Will Be Taken

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2018

STILLWATER, OK - NOVEMBER 04: Wide receiver James Washington #28 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys warms up before the game against the Oklahoma Sooners at Boone Pickens Stadium on November 4, 2017 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Oklahoma defeated Oklahoma State 62-52.  (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
Brett Deering/Getty Images

Despite years of scouting and a general idea of what they think about prospects in the 2018 draft class, NFL teams are likely to change their minds on players in the lead up to the NFL Draft from April 26-28. 

While draft boards are far from finalized ahead of the combine, which begins on Tuesday, scouting departments have worked for years to compile data on the majority of prospects and form what will soon actually look like a board. 

Then along comes the combine, where workouts, extensive medical tests and the sometimes-odd interview will reshape and outright impact boards across the league. 

Before the welcomed disruption in the process (things have been pretty dry lately, right?), let's take a look at a mock draft based on the current prospect stock market. 

             

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: Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

30. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

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

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

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

        

19. Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

In a normal class, a prospect like Washington interior lineman Vita Vea might come off the board in the top 10. 

Granted, he still might if his path to the draft goes well. But considering this class is loaded with potential top-10 quarterbacks and the first in a long time to seemingly instill a sense of confidence in offensive line depth, a talent like Vea tends to slip. 

But not for long. 

Vea is an explosive player, which is incredible for a guy coming in at 6'4" and 344 pounds. He was so explosive, in fact, Washington didn't hesitate to line him up on the edge of the line so he could rush the passer.

NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah put it best: 

This downright amazing athleticism means Vea is scheme versatile and can play in any front, as well as give the team drafting him some multiple-look options. It also happens to mean he should come away as one of the combine's bigger winners. 

The Dallas Cowboys seem like the final stopping point for Vea. While the defense only allowed an average of 20.8 points per game a year ago, the unit as a whole only tallied 38 sacks, and we don't know the fate of 14.5-sack man DeMarcus Lawrence. 

On paper, getting Lawrence back and putting Vea on the same line is a rich-get-richer approach for what has just turned into an arms race in the NFC East. 

       

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

John Raoux/Associated Press

Like Vea, talent at wideout tends to get pushed down the board in a class like this. 

James Washington of the Oklahoma State Cowboys, though, is the sort of guy who could start a serious run at the position once he comes off the board. 

An intriguing prospect at 6'0" and 205 pounds, Washington has great buildup speed and simply had a knack for making big plays at the collegiate level, hence his 74 catches for 1,549 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. It marked the third season in a row he averaged 19.4 or more yards per catch on at least 50 receptions. 

Marcus Mosher of Pro Football Weekly offered an interesting insight into the numbers: "In 2017, Washington had 24 receptions of over 20 yards (no other receiver in the country had more than 22), all while averaging nearly 21 yards per reception." 

A deep threat who is hard to bring down in the open field sounds like something the Carolina Panthers might like. 

Yes, the team still has Curtis Samuel and apparently gambled well on the idea Devin Funchess would seize the moment when given a chance, but the fact remains Cam Newton only threw for 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions a year ago while also needing to lead the team in rushing. 

Washington is simply another target who can space the offense and take pressure off the quarterback. His big-play ability matched with Samuel's deep speed makes for an interesting tandem quite unlike anything Newton has had to work with so far. 

          

30. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Chuck Burton/Associated Press

Did somebody say a run on receivers? 

When it comes to this position, fit is often more likely to decide whether a prospect pans out as opposed to the sheer talent of an individual. It's why we're likely to see more surprises than expected at the position each year. 

Christian Kirk out of Texas A&M is certainly a guy who could come off the board earlier than most might expect. He's wildly consistent at 5'11" and 200 pounds, having tallied at least 919 yards and seven touchdowns in each of his three collegiate seasons. 

What a certain NFL team will like in Kirk is his reliability. He's not a deep threat like Washington, but he's a stout underneath slot guy, as NFL.com's Lance Zierlein explained: "His lack of speed and length make him less likely to impact games down the field, but his footwork, route tempo and hands should give him an opportunity to find catches underneath."

Kirk is a great fit in Minnesota for a team continuing to need reliability from receivers to help along one of the three quarterbacks excelling in the excellent scheme there. 

Adam Thielen looked great a year ago, but we're still talking about an offense that whipped 68 targets at a running back (Jerick McKinnon), continues to pray Laquon Treadwell can have an impact at all and has yet to get a full 16-game season out of Stefon Diggs. 

Adding another underneath guy who can create mismatches, move the chains and let the short passing game function as the running game is nothing but a boon for what is already a strong offense. 

          

Stats courtesy of NFL.com.

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