2018 NFL Mock Draft: Latest 1st-Round Predictions in First Week of Free Agency
The free-agent feeding frenzy began Wednesday.
Already, hundreds of millions in contracts have been handed out across the National Football League. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has joined the Minnesota Vikings. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson is headed to the New York Jets.
Neither is hurting for money to hire movers.
The flurry of signings over the past several days has had a huge impact on the needs of teams in this year's NFL draft. But for every need that's changed, two remain the same.
The Indianapolis Colts still need pass-rushers. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers still need defensive backs.
And a handful of teams (including a Cleveland Browns club that owns the first overall selection) are still searching for a long-term solution at quarterback.
With free agency now barreling along at full speed, let's take a look at how all of the week's activity has changed the first 32 draft picks of 2018.
One caveat: There are no trades in this mock draft. Not because there won't be several in Round 1—including a few possibilities that merit mentioning here.
But without knowing the particulars of such deals, including them makes this an even more speculative exercise.
For the latest on the ever-changing free-agent landscape, be sure to check out the Bleacher Report Free-Agent Tracker.
1. Cleveland Browns
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
There's been rampant speculation about what the Cleveland Browns will do with the first overall pick since the moment Cleveland put the finishing touches on the second 0-16 season in NFL history. Most draftniks expected early on that the pick would be a quarterback.
It was just a matter of which one.
That was before Penn State tailback Saquon Barkley blew the roof off Lucas Oil Stadium at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, and before the Browns made a flurry of trades that included the acquisition of Tyrod Taylor from the Buffalo Bills.
Then the Browns gave running back Carlos Hyde a three-year, $15 million deal in free agency, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, which threw a bucket of cold water on the notion that Barkley would go first overall.
So, we're back to the quarterbacks.
USC's Sam Darnold doesn't have Josh Allen's arm strength or Baker Mayfield's mobility. But as Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller pointed out, Darnold possesses arguably the best total package of talents at the position:
"Darnold is a smooth, solid quarterback with the toughness and accuracy to excel in Hue Jackson's offense. He, like all the quarterbacks in this class, isn't without warts. His 22 turnovers this season were tied for most in the FBS. He has a wind-up delivery that will also throw some coaches off. But Darnold is also very poised, a good overall athlete and a high-character leader."
There are no sure things at quarterback in 2018. But Darnold doesn't have Josh Rosen's injury history. Or Mayfield's lack of size and perceived maturity issues. He was light-years more accurate than Allen in college.
And he's the future under center in Cleveland.
2. New York Giants
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
If the Hyde signing is the end of the notion of Saquon Barkley as the first overall selection, the young tailback won't have to wait much longer to hear his name called.
Barkley's got it all. The 6'0", 223-pounder was wildly productive at Penn State, topping 5,000 scrimmage yards in his career. He can do it all, whether it's banging away between the tackles, catching the rock out of the backfield or even pass-protecting. He also wowed teams in interviews at the combine, per Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.
It's been over two decades since the Cincinnati Bengals made Ki-Jana Carter the first overall pick in 1995 (another Nittany Lion, coincidentally). But the emergence of players like Todd Gurley, Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette has revived the belief that taking a back early in Round 1 isn't such a bad idea.
As one AFC personnel executive told Bucky Brooks of NFL.com: "Barkley's special. He checks off all of the boxes as a player, and he is an exceptional character kid. It's hard to find a hole in his game."
The New York Giants haven't had a bell-cow tailback in years. While the G-Men signed Jonathan Stewart in free agency, he's a complementary back who is on the wrong side of 30.
Big Blue might be tempted to consider a quarterback, but they are going to be even more tempted to add Barkley to an offense that includes superstar wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and promising young tight end Evan Engram.
Eli Manning approves.
3. Indianapolis Colts
Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
Were Saquon Barkley still on the board here, the Indianapolis Colts would be sorely tempted to take him. It's also possible the Colts could be in the market for some wheeling and dealing with one of the teams lusting after quarterback help in 2018.
But coming off a season in which the Colts were 31st in the NFL with 25 sacks, pass-rusher is a big priority—especially as the team moves to a four-man front under new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
Bradley Chubb would fill that need and then some.
The 6'4", 269-pound Chubb has everything an NFL team could want in an edge-rusher. Quickness. Power. Explosiveness. He left North Carolina State as the team's all-time leader in both sacks (26) and tackles for loss (60), a title that had been held by "Super" Mario Williams.
The same Mario Williams who was the first overall pick back in 2006.
Pairing Chubb with Jabaal Sheard would give the Colts the sort of bookends on the defensive line the team hasn't possessed since the days when Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney terrorized opposing signal-callers.
If the Colts make a pick at No. 3 and Barkley isn't on the board, it's a safe bet Chubb will be the guy.
4. Cleveland Browns (from Houston)
Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
The Browns likely won't make this pick. This feels like a prime spot for a trade with a QB-needy team—say one in Western New York that possesses the 12th and 22nd picks in this year's draft and just flipped its 2017 starter under center to the Browns.
However, while that trade may be a real possibility—even probability—it's not a certainty. As of right now the Browns still hold this pick.
Pairing Chubb and Myles Garrett would offer the Browns a formidable pair of defensive ends. But with Chubb off the board, the Browns could look to address a secondary in need of a boost.
Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick did a little bit of everything in the Crimson Tide's march to another national title in 2017, whether it was playing deep, up in the box or even as a slot corner. As Michael Marot of the Associated Press reported, Mike Mayock of NFL Network believes that versatility will serve Fitzpatrick well in the pros:
"I think he could play all six defensive back positions. Both corners, both safeties, nickel and dime linebacker. He's the only guy I can say that about. Now, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I've had a couple of coaches say to me, 'Hey, is he a difference-maker? Is he a nickel? Where's his ball production?' He had six picks two years ago but only had one this year. But I look at [his versatility] as a positive."
The Browns used a Round 1 pick on a safety in 2017.
This time it will be for one who can actually play.
Looking at you, Jabrill. Looking...right...at...you.
5. Denver Broncos
Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
If the 2018 NFL draft actually plays out this way, John Elway is going to be a very happy camper.
UCLA's Josh Rosen told reporters at the combine he wanted to show teams who he is in the hopes of finding the optimal fit as a pro.
"A team is not just evaluating how good you are on a scale of 1 to 10, but how good of a fit you are for your team," Rosen said. "I'm just trying to come out here and present myself as a person and a player and do what I can to let them make the best decision on whether I would be the right guy to lead their franchise."
Are there warts with Rosen? Yes. Rosen has something of an injury history, including two concussions in 2017. He has also drawn criticism for his outspokenness off the field—such as wearing a profane hat mocking the then-future president while golfing at one of his courses.
But Rosen is also the most pro-ready quarterback this year, a prototypically built 6'4" passer who can make all the throws with accuracy and read defenses.
If there's one GM in the NFL who could appreciate Rosen's willingness to speak his mind, it's the guy who once dug in his heels and flatly refused to play for the (then) Baltimore Colts.
The acquisition of Case Keenum in free agency was a patch—a temporary fix for Denver's issues at the position.
Rosen has the potential to be the long-term franchise quarterback Elway has been searching for from the moment he took the reins at Mile High.
6. New York Jets
Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
The first couple of days of free agency have been an object lesson in how badly the New York Jets need a franchise quarterback.
After Kirk Cousins signed with Minnesota, reports swirled that the Jets were close to a deal with Teddy Bridgewater.
Then, despite all the Bridgewater brouhaha, the Jets not only re-signed Josh McCown to a one-year, $10 million contract, but told the veteran, per Calvin Watkins of Newsday, that he will start for the team in the upcoming season.
Then, the Bridgewater deal did come to fruition. But as Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted, it was just a one-year pact.
In other words, nothing has happened so far that would preclude the Jets from taking a quarterback at No. 6. If anything, signs point that way more than before.
In his first mock draft of the year, ESPN.com's Mel Kiper Jr. projected that the first quarterback taken in 2018 would be Wyoming's Josh Allen. He held firm in his second, and while that draft dropped over three weeks ago, as recently as a few days ago Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports laid out a similar scenario.
The reason for Allen's appeal isn't hard to pinpoint. He's 6'5" and has the strongest arm of any passer in this year's class, which he displayed at the combine.
Unfortunately, accuracy is enough of a sticking point with Allen, who completed just 56.3 percent of his passes last year, to drop him below Darnold and Rosen.
With McCown and Bridgewater in town, though, there's no pressure on Allen to start early. He can work on improving his footwork and technique—and hopefully that accuracy.
The arm's there. If the accuracy follows, the sky is the limit.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State
It's possible that by the time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go on the clock at No. 7, all four of this year's top quarterback prospects will be gone. Odds are very good at least three will be, which could make this pick a target for any team fearful of being frozen out of grabbing the final one.
If the Bucs do stand pat here, it's not hard to find their biggest area of need. Tampa Bay allowed 260.6 yards per game through the air last year.
No team in the NFL allowed more.
At the combine, Ohio State's Denzel Ward put doubts over his status as the top cornerback to rest. He put on an impressive display of athleticism in Indy—including a 4.32-second 40-yard dash that tied for the fastest of any player at the event—to go along with hours of tape and a pedigree from the same school that produced last year's DROY.
At 5'10", 191 pounds, Ward's a touch on the small side. But his ball skills and technique are just as good as the wheels he displayed in Indianapolis.
The Buccaneers brought back veteran corner Brent Grimes on a one-year deal, but they whiffed on high-end free agents like Malcolm Butler (Tennessee Titans) and Trumaine Johnson.
Ward wouldn't be a bad consolation prize.
He might be the best of the lot.
8. Chicago Bears
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
The guard position doesn't gets fanbases excited. You won't often see the interior of the offensive line mentioned as the primary need for a team in the offseason. And guard isn't necessarily the biggest hole on the Chicago Bears roster.
But sometimes you have to recognize when a fantastic value falls into your lap—when a player falls to you who really shouldn't, a player who has the potential to become a regular at the Pro Bowl.
If the draft plays out this way, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson drops to Da Bears at No. 8.
More than a few pundits, including Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports, believe Nelson might be more than the No. 1 offensive lineman in this year's class. They believe Nelson might be the best player at any position this year.
The 6'5", 325-pound Nelson has drawn comparisons to everyone from perennial Pro Bowler Zack Martin to Hall of Famer Larry Allen.
Nelson, for his part, told Schwab he's eager to show the NFL how mean he can be.
"As a blocker, my mindset is being dominant," Nelson said. "I want to dominate all my opponents and take their will away to play the game. I would consider myself a nasty player."
What NFL team couldn't use some nasty?
Nelson is a top-five player in this draft, and Mitchell Trubisky would benefit greatly from having Nelson in front of him.
9. San Francisco 49ers
Tremaine Edmunds, EDGE, Virginia Tech
Were Denzel Ward to make it to the ninth overall pick, John Lynch would likely pounce on the Buckeyes star, even after landing Richard Sherman in free agency. Ditto for Quenton Nelson should the guard position continue to be devalued on draft day.
Wide receiver is another area of need for the team, but after a less-than-impressive outing at the combine, Alabama's Calvin Ridley appears to be sliding down draft boards.
That leaves edge-rusher—and a player who is both tantalizing and a bit confusing.
There's nothing confusing about Tremaine Edmunds' talent. The 6'5", 253-pounder possesses speed and agility you don't see in players with his size and length. Per Joe Fann of the 49ers website, ESPN's Todd McShay believes Edmunds' versatility would look good in red and gold:
"You just don't see guys this tall playing off the ball. He's very difficult to throw around underneath. He moves so well for a big guy. I watched his tape, and he did a good job when he was covering a No. 2 receiver. There's just so much position versatility there. He can rush the quarterback. I wouldn't say he's the most physical thumper at the linebacker position, but he's a solid tackler. He uses his hands really well, and when you're a long guy like that, you've got to use your hands well to keep blockers off your body."
Edmunds might be hard to peg role-wise, but whether it's at outside linebacker or as a "Leo" pass-rusher, he has the potential to be an impact player from the moment he sets foot on the field.
10. Oakland Raiders
Roquan Smith, ILB, Georgia
Mock drafts exist in a state of perpetual flux. It's rare for a player and team connected in December to continue to be linked through February and into March.
However, for every rule there's an exception—and that's the case with the Oakland Raiders and Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith.
The Raiders have long been a team in need of upgrades at the linebacker position. The in-season addition of NaVorro Bowman last year helped, but he isn't the player he once was in San Francisco and is now a free agent.
The Raiders have been linked to some higher-end free agents like Zach Brown, per Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal (h/t 247Sports.com's Jeff Smith, but the wiser course of action might be to look to the 10th overall pick for that upgrade inside.
Roquan Smith of Georgia is a rangy and physical 6'1", 236-pounder who can both hold his own at the point of attack and stick with backs and tight ends in coverage. Whether it's on the weak side or in the middle, Smith has the talent and athleticism to step into a three-down role immediately.
If the Raiders are going to get back into contention in the AFC West, addressing the defense in this year's draft is priority No. 1. And priority No. 2. And priority No. 3. Oakland needs help getting after the quarterback (Khalil Mack can't do it all himself) and in the secondary.
But with players like Tremaine Edmunds and Denzel Ward off the board, the front and back ends will have to cede to the middle in Round 1.
11. Miami Dolphins
Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma
The Miami Dolphins are at a crossroads heading into the 2018 NFL draft. The team has a quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, but the 29-year-old missed the entirety of the 2017 season with a torn ACL.
And despite restructuring his contract this week to address a miserable salary-cap situation, the reality is that new deal commits Miami To Tannehill for just the upcoming season. Sure, there would be a lot of dead money were the Dolphins to move on in 2019, but it was less a vote of long-term confidence than making the best of a terrible short-term financial situation.
If the Dolphins were afraid of fat dead cap numbers Ndamukong Suh would still have a fish on his hat. (fine...mammal...whatever)
This "Tannehill conundrum" has led to more than a little speculation that if one of the top four prospects at quarterback is on the board when the Dolphins pick, general manager Chris Grier will pull the trigger.
Supporters of Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield see a fiery competitor who completed 70.5 percent of his passes in 2017 en route to leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff. They see Mayfield as athletic, mobile and most importantly a winner.
Mayfield's detractors see an undersized (6'1") and immature young quarterback who was arrested after a drunken run-in with police and disciplined by the team for a crotch-grabbing incident against Kansas. They see Mayfield as the second coming of Johnny Manziel—a bust in the making.
More often than not, the truth in situations such as these lies somewhere in the middle. Maybe there is some Manziel in Mayfield's brashness—nd some Russell Wilson in his ability to make accurate downfield throws on the move.
It's no more certain than Tannehill's future after a second ACL tear.
And a lot less expensive.
12. Buffalo Bills (from Cincinnati)
Marcus Davenport, EDGE, UTSA
Again, it will be something of an upset if the Bills are on the board at No. 12. As in the Bills will be upset. Picking here means the team lost out on the high-end quarterbacks, leaving the door open for the start of the AJ McCarron era.
This is not an era the Bills want to last long. At all. If they did, the Bills would have given McCarron more than $10 million over two years in free agency.
However, whether it's the Bills or another team (COUGH! Cleveland COUGH!) that makes the pick at 12, there's a talented young edge-rusher available who would be a good fit.
Marcus Davenport may have toiled in relative obscurity at tiny Texas-San Antonio, but the 6'6", 264-pounder isn't unknown anymore—not after tearing up the Senior Bowl in January and posting an impressive workout at the combine that included a 4.58-second 40-yard dash time and 10'4" broad jump.
Per Patrick Maks of the Browns website, Davenport said he's long styled his game after Myles Garrett, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft.
"I get to see [him] play and go against tackles," Davenport said, "and I was like, 'Wow, I think he's the best player I've ever seen.' He's always a player I wanted to be better than, so I was always looking up to him. I look up to him, but I'm trying to reach him."
Davenport may begin his NFL career as Garrett's teammate. Whether he starts on the northern shore of Lake Erie or the southern one, Davenport has the talent to be a force getting after the quarterback.
13. Washington Redskins
Derwin James, S, Florida State
If it's a worst-case scenario for the Bills to get frozen out of the top quarterbacks, then the Washington Redskins' lucking into one of the draft's most versatile and talented safeties is the polar opposite.
Make no mistake—Derwin James of Florida State is one of the best safeties in the Class of 2018.
If there was any doubt that James is a lock to be drafted in the first half of Round 1 this year, the 6'0", 215-pounder put it to rest at the combine. He peeled off a 4.47-second 40-yard dash, posted impressive totals in the vertical (40 inches) and broad jumps (11 feet) and added 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press.
As B/R's Matt Miller wrote, James is also an outstanding fit in D.C. "James is the ultimate plug-and-play prospect at strong safety," Miller said. "That just so happens to be a need in Washington given the uncertain future of Su'a Cravens (who also played linebacker) and with starter Deshazor Everett being a replacement-level player."
Whether it's as a high safety, in the box against the run, covering receivers in the slot or even as a sub-package linebacker, James has the skills and versatility to be the sort of defensive Swiss army knife NFL teams covet on the back end.
If he's on the board here, the Redskins should pounce.
14. Green Bay Packers
Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
The opening salvo of free agency contained something extremely rare.
The Green Bay Packers spent money—lots of it.
There was a flip side to the acquisitions of tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, though. The team also bid goodbye to one of its offensive stars, releasing veteran wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
The Packers still have Randall Cobb and Davante Adams at the position, but additional depth at wide receiver is a more pressing need than ever.
And in 2018 the Packers pick high enough in Round 1 to do more than that. They can add the top receiver prospect in the draft.
Yes, Alabama's Calvin Ridley didn't have a good combine, running an average (for his standards) 40 and testing poorly in the broad and vertical jumps. But as Chase Goodbread reported for NFL.com, Ridley wasn't shy about his spot in the wideout pecking order while speaking to Kimberly Jones of NFL Network.
"I do feel like I'm the best receiver in the draft," Ridley said. "I just want to prove it. ... I don't get into a receiver stance and broad jump before I run a route. Whoever gets me is getting a great player."
Ridley is easily the most polished, NFL-ready receiver in 2018, a player who wins with crisply run routes as much as athleticism.
Adding him would take a lot of the sting out of the loss of Nelson for Aaron Rodgers.
15. Arizona Cardinals
Connor Williams, OT, Texas
It's a time of great change in the Valley of the Sun. Head coach Bruce Arians is out, replaced by Steve Wilks. Quarterback Carson Palmer is gone as well, replaced by the recently signed Sam Bradford.
However, one thing remains unchanged: The Arizona O-line is not good. The Cardinals allowed an eye-popping 52 sacks in 2017—tops in the NFC.
If the Redbirds don't do something about that line, Bradford isn't going to make it to Week 2—much less Week 12.
Connor Williams of Texas is a fleet-footed 6'5", 296-pounder who Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller has ranked as the top tackle in this year's class.
This isn't to say Williams is a flawless prospect. His arms are on the short side (33"), and his level of play on tape in 2017 doesn't match the season before. But Williams battled through nagging injuries much of last year, and his technique and footwork are as good as any tackle entering the NFL this year.
If the Cardinals are going to make one last run at a playoff spot in what's all but certainly Larry Fitzgerald's swan-song season, improving the protection for Bradford has to be the top priority.
Williams is a big step in the right direction.
16. Baltimore Ravens
Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU
The Baltimore Ravens hit the wide receiver position in free agency with the additions of John Brown and Ryan Grant, but that doesn't preclude Ozzie Newsome from once again trying to find Joe Flacco a No. 1 receiver in the first round of the NFL draft.
If at first you don't succeed and all that.
What the Ravens need is a big-bodied, physical boundary receiver who can win 50-50 balls and serve as a red-zone target. At 6'3" and 218 pounds, SMU's Courtland Sutton fits that bill to a T.
"Being a Cowboys fan growing up, I got to watch T.O. at a younger age. I really tried to emulate my game after him. He's such a dog in the way he played the game. I'm a huge Dez Bryant fan. I love the way he plays the game. I love the passion that he has when he plays the game. He catches the ball, and you feel the passion that he plays with."
Sutton isn't a burner (4.54-second 40 at the combine), but he posted solid times in the three-cone and shuttle drills in Indy—times that showcased his lateral quickness.
Add good hands and a fantastic work ethic, and you have a pass-catcher who is a better fit for what the Ravens need than just about any wideout in the Class of 2018.
17. Los Angeles Chargers
Vita Vea, DT, Washington
In Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Los Angeles Chargers have a pair of fearsome pass-rushing talents on the edge. But the middle of the Chargers defense was marshmallow soft up the middle in 2017—no team in the AFC surrendered more yards per game on the ground last season than L.A.'s 131.1.
There's a big hole in the middle of that defense.
A hole that Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea would plug the heck out of.
Vea is a 6'4", 347-pound mauler of a run-stopper who showed off his impressive strength (41 bench press reps) and quickness (5.1-second 40…at almost 350 pounds) at the combine.
After watching tape of Vea in action, Stephen White of SB Nation was blown away:
"I have to say he is the second-most physically dominant interior defensive lineman I have ever broken down, behind Aaron Donald. I watched four games of Vea kicking ass and taking names and I didn't need to see another down to make that assessment. If a team needs an interior defensive lineman this year, I don't think they could do better than Vea, and I haven't even watched any other interior defensive linemen yet."
Vea might not have Donald's otherworldly first step (who does?), but teams in the AFC West would have a much harder time between the tackles in 2018 with Vea charging into the lane.
He's a wrecking ball with feet.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
Given what's been a tumultuous offseason for the Seattle Seahawks, there are a number of directions the team could go at No. 18. The defensive front is a possibility. So is the secondary after the release of Richard Sherman.
But it's a deep draft at cornerback, and one of the Seahawks' biggest problems is also one of the team's oldest problems.
The offensive line is offensive.
Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey doesn't have the highest ceiling at his position in this year's draft. Or the most athleticism. He may be better off on the right side in the pros. But as one AFC executive told Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, teams need to stop talking themselves out of spending an early pick on the 6'8", 309-pounder.
"Notre Dame will even tell you that McGlinchey is better on the right side than the left side," the executive said. "He's just more comfortable and consistent there, so that's probably where you play him. I think everyone tries to beat him up too much. He's going to play in our league and be a decent starter."
The notion of spending a first-round pick on a high-floor right tackle may lack in sizzle, but there's plenty of steak there with McGlinchey. His technique, hand placement and footwork are rock-solid. He's a plug-and-play starter for the team that drafts him.
Line McGlinchey up opposite a (hopefully) healthy Duane Brown, and Russell Wilson will be running for his life a lot less in 2018.
19. Dallas Cowboys
Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama
Were Calvin Ridley or Courtland Sutton available at No. 19, wide receiver could be the call for the Dallas Cowboys. It's possible it still will be.
But the team has other needs.
In end Demarcus Lawrence and tackle David Irving, the Cowboys have the foundation for a stout defensive line. But that line needs fleshing out.
And Alabama's Da'Ron Payne is a lot of flesh.
A 6'2", 311-pound brick house of a lineman who tallied 53 tackles for the Crimson Tide last year, Payne entered draft season as one of 2018's most sought-after lane-cloggers on the defensive line. But there were questions regarding his pass-rushing chops and ability to get upfield.
Payne went a long way toward answering those questions at February's NFL Scouting Combine, peeling off an eye-opening 1.67-second 10-yard split.
By weight of comparison, Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers had a 1.68-second 10-yard split at the combine in 2016.
Payne's already an impressive player in his own right who would provide a substantial boost to a Dallas run defense that was good against the run in 2017, allowing 104 yards a game.
But give the big fella a couple of years working under the tutelage of one of the best defensive line coaches in the NFL in Rod Marinelli, and he could be much, much more.
Lawrence, Irving, second-year pro Taco Charlton and now Payne?
That's a line that could do some damage.
20. Detroit Lions
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU
As the Detroit Lions begin the Matt Patricia era, there are big changes expected defensively. During his time with the New England Patriots, Patricia favored multiple defensive fronts and looks. Versatility is a key characteristic for players in his scheme.
But the big linemen Patricia would likely favor came off the board just before Detroit's time on the clock, so instead the offense gets addressed—specifically, the team's biggest weakness in that regard.
The Lions run game was awful in 2017, averaging just 76.3 yards per game. That was dead last in the NFL. In 2016, the Lions were 30th in the NFL. They were dead last the season before that.
Injuries have played a part in those struggles, but much of it has been a lack of physicality on the ground. Even when Ameer Abdullah has been healthy (which hasn't been often), he's not the kind of tailback who is going to take on defenders between the tackles. Frank Gore (who the Lions are reportedly close to signing) was...five years ago.
LSU's Derrius Guice is now.
Guice topped 1,200 rushing yards a year ago despite playing through injuries much of the season, but to truly appreciate the 5'10", 224-pounder, one has to go back to his 2016 campaign.
That year, Guice gained 1,387 yards on the ground on just 183 carries with 15 touchdowns—a robust 7.6 yards a pop.
Like Leonard Fournette before him, Guice is an angry runner—a player who will slam right through arm tackles, pick up yards after contact and keep the chains moving.
Detroit has lurked on the fringe between contender and pretender the past few years because it had no offensive balance.
Guice would provide some.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (from Buffalo)
Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
The Cincinnati Bengals have already taken steps to address their woeful tackle situation with the trade that dropped the team to pick No. 21.
But even if Cordy Glenn can stay healthy (a significant "if" given his 15 missed games the last two years) and recapture his form, it doesn't mean the Bengals are done at the position. Jake Fisher has had his own issues staying on the field, and Cedric Ogbuehi is a turnstile.
Luckily for the Bengals, in a comparatively "down" draft class at tackle there are still a couple of viable options on the board here—including UCLA's Kolton Miller.
The 6'8", 309-pound Miller is making a push up draft boards after a great combine in which he ran a sub-five-second 40 and tested at or near the top of his position group in numerous drills. Miller's tape from UCLA is uneven, but B/R's Matt Miller wrote recently that some NFL teams believe he just needs coaching up.
"Miller's tape can be inconsistent," he said, "but one NFL scout I spoke with at the combine said Miller was a victim of poor coaching and would be better in the pros once his technique can be adjusted. The 6'8", 309-pounder is a smooth, easy mover at tackle and has the reach (34 ⅛" arms) that teams get excited about."
If the Bengals are going to turn things around in 2018, they have to get Andy Dalton more time in the pocket. Tackle the tackle trouble.
And be aggressive doing it.
22. Buffalo Bills (from Kansas City)
Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
Again, it will be something of a surprise if the Buffalo Bills make this pick. It's a mortal lock that the next several weeks are going to feature all kinds of phone calls from Bills GM Brandon Beane to teams that are picking toward the top of Round 1.
Buffalo's going to do everything it can to move up in pursuit of a quarterback.
If that pursuit falls through, the Bills might reach here for a second-tier signal-caller like Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph or Lamar Jackson of Louisville. The team needs of possible trade partners like the Browns, Colts, Giants and Jets could steer this pick anywhere from edge-rusher to the offensive line or even a tailback.
Rather than engaging in a crystal-ball crapshoot here, the pick is a player that every team in the National Football League could use.
Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson had a rough go at the scouting combine, running a 4.56-second 40 and looking choppy in position drills. But a couple of bad days at Lucas Oil Stadium don't erase a 2017 season that saw Jackson lead the FBS with eight interceptions on the way to being named a first-team All-American.
At 6'0", Jackson has the length NFL teams covet. His ability to get the ball in the air and instincts are as good as any young cover man in the class.
Come to think of it, after watching this play against Ohio State again, his ball skills are the best in the class.
Jackson would be a welcome addition in any defensive backfield.
23. Los Angeles Rams
Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
The Los Angeles Rams have been one of the most active teams in the NFL this offseason. The Rams were making big changes on the defensive side of the ball before free agency even opened, adding cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters and shedding edge-rusher Robert Quinn in trades.
That last deal left the Rams with a hole in their pass rush—one that sets up nicely to be filled the way this mock draft has played out.
Harold Landry is an athletic 6'3", 252-pound speed-rusher from Boston College who tallied 16.5 sacks for the Eagles in 2016. Landry's numbers were down in an injury-marred 2017 campaign, but per Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, he's drawn comparisons to 2016 NFL sack king Vic Beasley of the Atlanta Falcons.
"He's just like Beasley coming out with the way he comes off the snap," one NFC personnel director said. "You remember how Beasley struggled early because he had to learn to be a pass-rusher and not just a sprinter? I think Landry might be the same early on. When he puts it together, he'll do what Beasley did."
For fans of a Rams team firmly in "win now" mode, the idea of developing a pass-rusher may not be especially appealing. But finding a first-year player capable of double-digit sacks is next to impossible—it's a position where there's a steeper learning curve.
Landry has the raw ability to produce spurts of great play from the moment he sets foot on an NFL field, and his upside and ceiling are off the charts.
It's an easy pick to make at No. 23.
24. Carolina Panthers
Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP
After losing Andrew Norwell in free agency, the Carolina Panthers have a significant hole at the guard position.
Luckily for Carolina, there is a pair of plug-and-play starters available at the position at No. 24 who should take a lot of the sting out of that departure.
Before he tore his pectoral muscle at the combine, Ohio State's Billy Price may have been the clubhouse leader for this pick. And Price is still in the conversation. But there's no injury concern with Will Hernandez of UTEP.
There is a lot to like about the 6'2", 348-pound road-grader.
A four-year starter at left guard in college, Hernandez has everything a team looking for help inside could want. He's powerful at the line of scrimmage yet surprisingly quick on his feet for a man his size. Pop in tape of Hernandez in action, and you see a young player who is almost never blown back by oncoming rushers. And all those starts at El Paso have helped Hernandez refine his technique and footwork.
Yes, Hernandez is a little short for the position, and his arm length (32") is less than ideal. He isn't the slam-dunk, "can't miss" guard prospect that Notre Dame's Quenton Nelson is.
But Hernandez is an excellent blocker both in the run game and pass protection who would slot as a starter from day one for a Panthers team that made the playoffs in 2017.
25. Tennessee Titans
Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
The Tennessee Titans are undergoing something of a shake-up on defense. The Titans are probably out of the running for a first-round cornerback after inking Malcolm Butler to a big contract. But the team is also in need of a replacement for Avery Williamson at inside linebacker after he joined the New York Jets.
Wouldn't you know it? One of the best in this year's class happens to be on the board at No. 25.
Actually, Rashaan Evans is an inside linebacker and an outside linebacker, having played all over for the Crimson Tide. The 6'3", 234-pound Evans, who had 74 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and six sacks last year, touted his versatility while speaking to reporters at the combine.
"I was born to be versatile," he said. "I was born to be able to play whatever you want me to play. I don't even like to put a name on what I play because I feel like that's really limiting or downing my athletic ability."
Evans' confidence isn't misplaced. He did everything in Tuscaloosa from rush the passer to cover running backs and even made the defensive play calls—all at a high level.
Not only would Evans slot nicely into Williamson's old ILB spot, but a compelling argument can be made that he'd be an upgrade given his superior range and athleticism.
26. Atlanta Falcons
Isaiah Wynn, OG, Georgia
The Atlanta Falcons are a playoff team that doesn't have a ton of holes. On the offensive side of the ball, the interior of the line is probably the biggest. Andy Levitre is the wrong side of 30 and coming off a major injury, and Wes Schweitzer's a replacement-level talent.
Georgia's Isaiah Wynn could solve that problem. The 6'2", 300-pounder was a tackle with the Bulldogs, but given his lack of length, he projects as a guard at the next level.
As Joe Goodberry reported for The Athletic, Wynn's athleticism stands out when watching tape. "He looks comfortable on the move and locates and connects with linebackers easily," Goodberry said. "His feet don't stop and he can stay with an athletic defender because he also plays with great balance. You'll rarely see Wynn on the ground as his balance and quick feet keep him upright."
It's that quickness and agility that should make Wynn appealing to teams that employ a zone-blocking scheme and value the ability to move in space more than massive maulers.
The Atlanta Falcons are just such a team. For a Super Bowl contender like the Falcons, the ability to address arguably their biggest need with a talented youngster who may be the No. 2 offensive line prospect in 2018 could be more than just a great value.
It could be a gift.
27. New Orleans Saints
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The New Orleans Saints are in a position they haven't occupied for some time—heading into an NFL draft without a glaring hole on defense that needs to be addressed.
This isn't to say the team won't use its first-round pick on a defender in 2018. There are some interesting options at cornerback and a couple of upside edge-rushers who would make sense in this spot.
So would a wide receiver to complement Michael Thomas.
Christian Kirk of Texas A&M isn't the lankiest wideout in this year's class. At 5'10" and 200 pounds, Kirk's future in the NFL may lie in the slot. He's also not a blazer—although to be fair, his 4.47-second 40-yard-dash in Indianapolis isn't exactly running in mud.
Kirk is a solidly built, strong wideout who runs excellent routes, using his strength and ability to catch the ball in traffic to rack up yardage over the middle. With an accurate quarterback, Kirk could easily lead all rookie receivers in yards.
I hear good things about that Brees fellow in the Big Easy.
Kirk would provide the Saints an immediate upgrade over Wille Snead in the slot and offer Drew Brees another dependable target in the passing game. There might be players available in this spot who have higher ceilings and more potential than Kirk, but the Saints are looking more to the present than the future.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers
Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a reputation for finding value late in the first round of the NFL draft. Part of the reason the team has had the success it has over the years is the willingness to eschew need for the best player available.
T.J. Watt. David DeCastro. Cameron Heyward. All were picked 24th or later. Two have made Pro Bowls. The third (Watt) will make one before too long.
In 2018, that's not really an option. Not for a Steelers team with Super Bowl aspirations that already knows it will be without the services of inside linebacker Ryan Shazier this season.
However, there may be a player available who is at least in the BPA conversation at No. 28 and could somewhat fill the void left by Shazier's spinal injury.
Boise State's Leighton Vander Esch is a 6'4", 256-pound linebacker with good speed (4.65 in the 40) who possesses the ability to take on tailbacks in run support, the speed to pursue on the edge and the instincts to cover pass-catchers over the middle.
This isn't to say that Vander Esch can just take over for Shazier, who is arguably the fastest sideline-to-sideline linebacker in the NFL when healthy. But Vander Esch has the potential to a much more effective coverage linebacker than Vince Williams, who is more of an old-school, throwback "thumper" type.
There are a couple of targets in the secondary that could tempt Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, but Vander Esch offers the best of both worlds—the ability to address one of the team's biggest deficiencies without reaching.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Welcome to "Jackson-ville."
The Jaguars surprised many across the National Football League when the team re-upped Blake Bortles for three years and $54 million, rather than getting in on the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. It's a contract that all but ensures Bortles will remain in J-ville through (at least) 2019.
That doesn't mean a Jaguars team that came one win from making the Super Bowl last season shouldn't consider reinforcements at the position.
It's no state secret that Lousiville's Lamar Jackson isn't ready to take the reins of an NFL team yet—a fact that was hammered home by an uneven performance throwing the ball at the combine.
It's not a matter of being able to make the throws. Jackson has a gun. But he struggles with consistent accuracy...especially on intermediate throws outside. It's more a matter of technique than ability.
What also isn't a secret is that Jackson has athletic gifts rarely seen at his position. The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner threw for 3,660 yards and 27 touchdowns a season ago, while adding another 1,601 yards and 18 scores on the ground.
For the record, those numbers are actually better than his Heisman season, which flies in the face of the notion that Jackson regressed in 2017.
Jackson's talent isn't in question—at least not from anyone with functioning eyes. He just needs time to learn the NFL game and improve his mechanics. Jackson needs patience from an NFL team that isn't desperate to fill a need at quarterback or patch a hole at another position.
He's perhaps the riskiest play at the back of the first round.
But the payoff could set up the Jaguars at football's most important position for years.
Plus, "Jackson-ville"? The marketing opportunities are staggering.
30. Minnesota Vikings
Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
If there was any question regarding the Minnesota Vikings' intentions in 2018, it was settled when the Vikes handed Kirk Cousins a fully guaranteed $84 million contract earlier this week.
It's Super Bowl or bust.
Of course, there's a reason these Vikings made it to within a game of the Super Bowl this past season. It's a team without many weaknesses. The ones the Vikings do have are the universal trouble spots in the NFL.
Every team wishes its offensive line was better. And everyone this side of the Jaguars wants to bolster its secondary.
That latter point is doubly true in the Twin Cities. Xavier Rhodes is a young star at cornerback, and Trae Waynes has his moments (for better and worse). But Minnesota has a hole in the slot and doesn't appear to be interested in bringing back Terence Newman.
Mike Hughes of Central Florida would be a solid option. The 5'10", 189-pound Hughes is a favorite of ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay (via Shannon Green of the Orlando Sentinel):
"He's just a really good cover corner. He's instinctive, he'll support the run, he’s a ball hawk with four interceptions and one for a touchdown, and he's a difference-maker in the return game. He doesn't have the greatest top-end speed, but it was good enough. I thought that was a solid time he ran in the low 4.5s [at the NFL combine], and he just knows how to cover."
31. New England Patriots
Sam Hubbard, EDGE, Ohio State
The New England Patriots could go in a few directions at the back end of Round 1. Both the pass rush and the defensive backfield were exposed in the team's Super Bowl LII loss and are in need of upgrades.
There's also always the chance the Patriots will trade back a handful of spots. There will be teams that pick early on Day 2 interested in moving up when the players they covet are still available as Round 1 winds down.
This is a deep draft class at cornerback, so if the Patriots do stand pat at No. 31, it makes sense for them to get Trey Flowers some help up front. Part of the reason the secondary was torched in the Super Bowl was New England's inability to pressure Nick Foles. Even the best corners can only cover a receiver for so long.
The Patriots met with Ohio State's Sam Hubbard at the combine, where the 6'5", 265-pounder turned in the fastest times in both the three-cone drill (6.84 seconds) and short shuttle (4.32 seconds) among defensive linemen.
It's that quickness from Hubbard, who had 72 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks in 2017, that should appeal to a Patriots team that values versatility in its edge players.
Whether it's standing up at linebacker or with his hand in the dirt along the line, Hubbard would make the AFC champs better both now and in the future.
32. Philadelphia Eagles
Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado
The Philadelphia Eagles occupy the spot every NFL team covets—picking last in Round 1.
Winning the Super Bowl doesn't mean the Eagles have no problems, however. The team could stand to add an offensive tackle given the age of 36-year-old Jason Peters, the play of Halapoulivaati Vaitai in 2017 notwithstanding.
The tackles are already a bit picked over by this point in the draft, though, so it's the defensive backfield that could get a look as Day 1 of the draft comes to a close.
The Eagles already added third-year corner Daryl Worley in a trade with the Carolina Panthers, but depth remains an issue—especially with Patrick Robinson gone to the Big Easy.
Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver has the potential to be much more than just a depth player or subpackage cornerback. At 6'1" and 190 pounds, Oliver has the length that NFL teams salivate over. And while he didn't run especially well (4.50) at the combine, that's not a bad time for a big corner. His game tape also shows a player whose football speed is substantially better.
Oliver's far from a finished product—he needs to play with more physicality and refine the holes in his coverage technique. But that's the beauty of this pick—the Eagles wouldn't be throwing Oliver to the wolves as a full-time player right away. He'd have time to develop.
If he can do that and realize his immense potential, Oliver could become not only the best cornerback in this draft but also one of the most impactful players from this class.