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2018 NFL Mock Draft: 1st-Round Predictions and Prospects to Watch

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 4, 2018

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 01: Derrius Guice #5 of the LSU Tigers celebrates after a touchdown run against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the Citrus Bowl on January 1, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. Notre Dame won 21-17. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The front end of the first round provides plenty of intrigue, as we could see a handful of quarterbacks and one of the best running back prospects in recent history go within the first six picks.

However, the back end of the first round and beginning of the second are also noteworthy, as a few collegiate stars could garner playing time for Super Bowl contenders.

Here's a look at two such prospects, as well as takes on where they may end up and why.

                

2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: USC QB Sam Darnold

2. New York Giants: UCLA QB Josh Rosen

3. Indianapolis Colts: North Carolina EDGE Bradley Chubb

4. Cleveland Browns: Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

5. Denver Broncos: Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield

6. New York Jets: Wyoming QB Josh Allen

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Alabama DB Minkah Fitzpatrick

8. Chicago Bears: Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson

9. San Francisco 49ers: Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds

10. Oakland Raiders: Georgia LB Roquan Smith

11. Miami Dolphins: Florida State S Derwin James

12. Cincinnati Bengals: Texas OT Connor Williams

13. Washington Redskins: Washington DT Vita Vea

14. Green Bay Packers: Iowa CB Josh Jackson

15. Arizona Cardinals: Ohio State CB Denzel Ward

16. Baltimore Ravens: Alabama WR Calvin Ridley

17. Los Angeles Chargers: Alabama DT Da'Ron Payne

18. Seattle Seahawks: Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey

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

20. Detroit Lions: UTSA EDGE Marcus Davenport

21. Buffalo Bills: Ohio State OG Billy Price

22. Buffalo Bills: UCLA OT Kolton Miller

23. Los Angeles Rams: Boston College EDGE Harold Landry

24. Carolina Panthers: Alabama S Ronnie Harrison

25. Tennessee Titans: Michigan DT Maurice Hurst

26. Atlanta Falcons: Florida DT Taven Bryan

27. New Orleans Saints: SMU WR Courtland Sutton

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Alabama LB Rashaan Evans

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Penn State TE Mike Gesecki

30. Minnesota Vikings: Georgia OG Isaiah Wynn

31. New England Patriots: UCF CB Mike Hughes

32. Philadelphia Eagles: LSU RB Derrius Guice

          

2 Prospects To Watch

RB Derrius Guice

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley has stolen the show at the NFL Scouting Combine thanks to his incredible performances in drills and tests, but another back could be an intriguing pick at the end of the first round.

Derrius Guice didn't fare well in the bench press (15 reps), but he did run 4.49 in the 40-yard dash, which is an impressive figure for the 224-pounder, whom Lance Zierlein of NFL Media compared to Marshawn Lynch.

The former LSU star rushed for 2,638 yards and 26 touchdowns in his final two years in Baton Rouge. Although college production doesn't always equate to pro success, his numbers are impressive given he played in the SEC, the toughest conference in college football.

Guice could be a fit for the Philadelphia Eagles. Running back LeGarrette Blount is a free agent, and while the 31-year-old has had a solid career in the pros, it's possible the Eagles look for a younger replacement. Philadelphia still has Jay Ajayi and Corey Clement, but the former's contract runs out after the end of next season.

Therefore, Guice could jump in and replace Blount in the three-man backfield this year and perhaps form a solid one-two punch with Clement in 2019 should the Eagles decide to move on from Ajayi.

Elsewhere, the New York Giants and New York Jets could be good stops at the beginning of the second round. The Giants used a running back by committee last year that largely faltered, although Orleans Darkwa and Wayne Gallman did show flashes of potential. The Jets just lost Matt Forte to retirement and need to find his replacement.

                       

TE Mike Gesicki

Penn State players seem to be dominating the combine this year. First, it was Barkley. And then it was tight end Mike Gesicki. NFL Research gave some context as to how the former Penn State tight end's day went:

NFL Research @NFLResearch

Penn State TE Mike Gesicki at 2018 Combine: - Taller than Calvin Johnson - Stronger than Donald Penn - Faster than Antonio Brown - Jumps higher than Odell Beckham Jr. @PennStateFball https://t.co/ZoCnoJoWLd

The NFL posted his numbers in comparison to those of other tight ends in this year's draft class:

NFL @NFL

.@PennStateFball Mike Gesicki's #NFLCombine Ranks (among TEs): Vertical: 41.5 (1st) Broad: 10-9 (1st) 40: 4.54 (T-1st) Bench: 22 reps (2nd) https://t.co/sqTIGx4s0S

While the NFL Scouting Combine is only one piece of the prospect puzzle, Gesicki's stock clearly took a giant leap forward in Indianapolis, so much so that one has to wonder if he could even sneak into the first round. Zierlein projected the tight end as a second-rounder before the combine began.

Gesicki's athletic ability and receiving talent isn't in question. Not only was he a three-sport star in high school (his other two were basketball and volleyball), but he also posted two excellent seasons as Penn State's No. 1 tight end, recording 105 receptions, 1,242 yards and 14 touchdowns in that time.

What is in question is his blocking ability, and Zierlein noted the following: "Passive approach as blocker puts run plays in immediate peril. Hand usage is poor in run game. Rarely sustains blocks against legitimate edge talent."

That's a concern heading into the draft, but teams looking to add another dimension to their passing game should give Gesicki a strong look.

One such team might be the Jacksonville Jaguars. On one hand, the Jags' identity is that of a tough, run-first offense and an aggressive, ferocious defense. Given that, Gesicki may not be the best fit.

However, the Jags didn't get much offensive production out of the tight end position last year—Marcedes Lewis, Ben Koyack and James O'Shaughnessy combined for just 505 yards. And no tight end is under contract with the team after the 2018 season, per Over the Cap. As far as other pass-catchers go, wideouts Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee are both free agents and may not be back with the team. 

Gesicki could fill a need at tight end and be one of the team's premier pass-catchers within a couple seasons. The Jags could also look elsewhere to fill other needs, but Gesicki could be the right addition here.

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