NFL Mock Draft 2018: Complete 1st-Round Predictions for Most Hyped Prospects

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2018

Penn State running back Saquon Barkley runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine, Friday, March 2, 2018, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

After 48 or so hours of flirtation with NFL-landscape changing moves, free agency opened and lived up to the hype as a flood of transactions went through. 

The dramatic reshaping of the league ends up having a bigger impact on prospects than almost anything they can do at the combine or during an interview. 

Let's look at a small example—the Cincinnati Bengals traded for Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Cordy Glenn and in doing so sacrificed the No. 12 pick in the draft, getting back No. 21.

It means rethinking the draft as a whole because older mocks likely had a tackle going to the Bengals at No. 12. That prospect now commits to a free fall in the updated mock below, and the Bengals don't take one at their new slotting, either. 

That's a small sample of how the new league year kicking off dramatically changes things, starting right at the top with No. 1. 

        

2018 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

2. New York Giants: Sam Darnold, QB, USC

3. Indianapolis Colts: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn 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: Quenton Nelson, G, Notre Dame

9. San Francisco 49ers: Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

10. Oakland Raiders: Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

11. Miami Dolphins: Minkah Fitzpatrick, DB, Alabama

12. Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

13. Washington Redskins: Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

14. Green Bay Packers: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

15. Arizona Cardinals: Vita Vea, DT, Washington

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

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

18. Seattle Seahawks: Connor Williams, OT, Texas

19. Dallas Cowboys: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

20. Detroit Lions: Derrius Guice, RB, LSU

21. Cincinnati Bengals: Mike Gesicki, TE, Penn State 

22. Buffalo Bills (via Kansas City Chiefs): Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

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

24. Carolina Panthers: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA

25. Tennessee Titans: Da'Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

26. Atlanta Falcons: Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

27. New Orleans Saints: Will Hernandez, OG, UTEP

28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

30. Minnesota Vikings: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado

31. New England Patriots: Isaiah Wynn, OT, Georgia

32. Philadelphia Eagles: Mark Andrews, TE, Oklahoma 

            

1. Cleveland Browns: Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State

Darron Cummings/Associated Press

It wasn't too outlandish to have the Cleveland Browns selecting Penn State running back Saquon Barkley at No. 1 here in prior mocks. As a team with two picks in the top five, rolling with the best player available to help along an offense and grabbing a rookie quarterback a few picks later was a viable option. 

With free agency underway, though, things have changed. 

The Browns now have Tyrod Taylor on the roster thanks to a trade with the Bills. Taylor is a bridge if there ever was one, and the team also signed Carlos Hyde to a three-year contract, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

With two placeholders, the Browns are free to turn to the best defensive player available—which is easily NC State edge defender Bradley Chubb.

Chubb is an elite high-upside player with production for those who look for it, too. He's 6'4" and 269 pounds with a high motor and sets the edge well after working on his game against the run last season. To put it in simpler terms, NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compared him to Chris Long, which speaks to his well-rounded and disruptive game. 

Thinking about this within the context of the entire Browns defense is a scary proposition for offenses. Not only do opponents have to worry about Chubb on his own, Myles Garrett is teaming with him on every down and wreaking havoc. 

With another pick in no time at all, the Browns can worry about a high-upside quarterback prospect. 

         

3. Indianapolis Colts: Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

Even a week ago, it didn't seem all too likely Barkley would be available for the Indianapolis Colts at No. 3. 

The NFL changes by the minute this time of year. 

These Colts were one of the teams in on free-agent running back Dion Lewis, according to NBCSportsBoston's Michael Giardi. Lewis ended up cashing in on a deal with the Tennessee Titans, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter, leaving the Colts still looking for a starting back. 

Barkley sure fits the bill well. The 6'0", 233-pound back wasn't just incredibly productive in college, he boasts high-upside traits unlike any running back prospect since perhaps Adrian Peterson.

A telling advanced metric from Graham Barfield of Fantasy Guru speaks volumes about Barkley's ability: 

The Colts have plenty of holes on the roster, but hoping another year of Frank Gore or Marlon Mack will be able to help a presumably returning Andrew Luck isn't the best idea. 

Really, turning into a run-first team to protect Luck's longevity in the league isn't such a bad idea. If it's something the Colts are willing to entertain, they won't get another chance at a prospect like this for a long time. 

       

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

The NFL draft in the first round is about upside, and there isn't a more important position in football than quarterback, so no, the New York Jets adding two signal-callers in free agency doesn't mean much at No. 6. 

These Jets confirmed the return of 39-year-old Josh McCown and also added Teddy Bridgewater on a one-year deal, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. The age of the former and the length of time in town for the latter signals the Jets are still in business under center. 

Given the way the board falls above, the best option for the Jets might be Louisville product Lamar Jackson. Versatile collegiate production aside, Jackson checks in at 6'3" and 200 pounds with Michael Vick-esque abilities when he needs to extend plays. 

Bruce Gradkowski put it best on NFL Network: 

Jackson needs plenty of development, and like any other quarterback, he's going to require a system tailored to his skill set to succeed. 

The Jets shouldn't have any problems making this happen in a few years with a smart implementation of run-pass option looks, especially if the front office keeps building up the offensive weapons around the position. 

It's not a guarantee to work, but gambling on rare traits is a sound strategy in the first round—and Jackson has many. 

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