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NFL Mock Draft 2018: 1st-Round Predictions as Free Agency Officially Begins

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2018

Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold is seen at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine on Saturday, March 3, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

The official communication period for free agency has begun, and the upcoming moves on the open market will shape how NFL franchises arrange their board for the 2018 NFL draft.

Major dominoes must fallnamely Kirk Cousins, Allen Robinson and Case Keenum, among othersbut we already know quarterbacks will be popular players early in the first round.

So, the key question is whether the Denver Broncos and/or New York Jets will have already filled that need. If yes, that could bump two heralded prospects up the board. As a result, will the Buffalo Bills or a different team feel compelled to trade up?

Free agency won't answer every question, but it can mark a roster need as either addressed or a must-fill in the draft.

             

1. Cleveland Browns: Sam Darnold, QB, USC
2. New York Giants: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
3. Indianapolis Colts: Bradley Chubb, EDGE, NC State
4. Cleveland Browns (via HOU): Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
5. Denver Broncos: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama
6. New York Jets: Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Derwin James, S, Florida State
8. Chicago Bears: Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
9. San Francisco 49ers: Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia
11. Miami Dolphins: Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
12. Buffalo Bills (via CIN): Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
13. Washington: Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
14. Green Bay Packers: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
15. Arizona Cardinals: Connor Williams, OL, Texas
16. Baltimore Ravens: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
18. Seattle Seahawks: Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
19. Dallas Cowboys: Vita Vea, DT, Dallas Cowboys
20. Detroit Lions: Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
21. Cincinnati Bengals (via BUF): Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
22. Buffalo Bills (via KC): Billy Price, OL, Ohio State
23. Los Angeles Rams: James Daniels, C, Iowa
24. Carolina Panthers: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
25. Tennessee Titans: Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
26. Atlanta Falcons: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
27. New Orleans Saints: Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
31. New England Patriots: Taven Bryan, DL, Florida
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

               

Trade-Down Candidates

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 10: New General Manager John Dorsey (L) and owner Jimmy Haslam talk before the game against the Green Bay Packers at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 10, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images

Whether it's on a quarterback or Saquon Barkley, the Cleveland Browns ought to use the No. 1 overall selection. Similarly, the New York Giants could ship their No. 2 pick elsewhere, but it's probably more beneficial to keep that position.

After that, though, every front office should be open for business.

The Indianapolis Colts are in a prime slot, since they (theoretically, perhaps) already have a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck. While his shoulder troubles are a concern, the Colts must rebuild the defense anyway. Snagging extra picks would be reasonable.

Cleveland recently acquired Tyrod Taylor, but he's not certain to remain there beyond 2018. Like Indianapolis, the Browns have enough roster needs to keep the pick. Still, it's worth exploring a trade if the team has already selected a quarterback.

The Broncos and Jets have an identical outlook, because they'll both target free-agent signal-callers and could reduce the likelihood of drafting one early. A remaining quarterback-needy team, perhaps the Arizona Cardinals or Bills, might capitalize and move into Denver's spot to leap New York.

          

Could Miami Target a QB?

MOBILE, AL - JANUARY 27:  Baker Mayfield #6 of the North team throws the ball during the Reese's Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on January 27, 2018 in Mobile, Alabama.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

At this point, we know what Ryan Tannehill is, right?

He's a good, not great, NFL quarterback who will turn 30 years old this summer. Though he's guided the Dolphins to at least seven wins in four seasons, they've reached the playoffs just once. And he missed all of 2017 due to a knee injury.

Tannehill is a quality player and probably a top-32 option in the league, but he isn't the long-term answer in Miami. The organization should consider drafting a quarterback, and it's not a horrible idea to trade up, either.

Yes, doing so involves having complete trust in Rosen, Mayfield or maybe Josh Allen being the guy. That's an enormous risk, and the cost for trading up could be prohibitive for the Dolphins, who have a variety of weaknesses on an already-expensive roster.

But if Denver signs Cousins or Keenum, Miami should think long and hard about moving in front of New York.

          

One to Watch

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 05: Louisville defensive back Jaire Alexander (DB01) runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 5, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Louisville cornerback Jaire Alexander has become a popular player since the conclusion of the NFL Scouting Combine.

The 5'11", 192-pounder had an impressive showing, recording a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, 35-inch vertical, 3.98-second short shuttle and 6.71-second three-cone drill.

"Athlete" is an overused word in scouting analysisseriously, every prospect is an athletebut Alexander has elite physical tools. The quickness has vaulted him into top-10 discussion despite missing half of 2017 due to knee and hand injuries.

"I'm a dog out there on the field, a savage," he told Jake Lourim of the Courier-Journal. "You turn on the film, you can see that yourself. I bring a lot of energy. I'm a competitor. I'm a motivator."

Alexander had seven interceptions and 15 pass breakups during his three seasons at Louisville. Whichever teams aren't satisfied with their secondary post-free agency surely will keep Alexander in mind.

         

Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.

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